Thinking Outside The Holiday Gift Box

Thinking Outside the Holiday Gift Box

The Christmas countdown is upon us. And with just single-digit shopping days left, the countdown is on to find that perfect gift for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list. So, too, is the pressure to buy for those whose tastes may run to the peculiar, or who already have everything and offer no clues about what might tickle their fancy.

For anyone on that list, we have a few ideas…

For The Pet Lover: A Robot Mouse

When most people hear about getting a robotic mouse for their beloved dog or cat, they are probably thinking about something like this: a little wind-up mouse that one’s dog, cat or preschooler can chase around the house.

It’s not a bad gift, but in the era of advanced engineering, mind-boggling sensor advances and the latest AI algorithms, the truly committed pet owner can do a lot better.

Meet Mousr, a little robot mouse that comes to the world care of three PhD students who met at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It comes equipped with time of flight sensors, and is configured with an autonomous mode where it will actively “try” to evade the pet that is chasing it, as well as a remote-control mode so its buyer and his or her pet can play with it together.

And while the product has been called a bit “gimmicky” by some, the little brand, prior to holiday 2018, had already fulfilled 200,000 pre-orders. And earlier this year, the little bionic mouse won best new product in the cat category at the Global Pet Expo.

The main downside to Mousr is its price point: At around $150, it costs more than 10 times as much as the simpler, wind-up version of the toy.

But if the reviews on Amazon are to be believed, purchasing Mousr will makes one’s cat (or dog – though marketed as a cat toy, dog owners confirm that their pets also like chasing the robot mouse) 10 times happier than the cheaper mouse toy.

For the Party Animal 

The holiday season is about celebrating – and sometimes between the mulled wine, spiked eggnog and flowing champagne, there may come the risk of overindulging.

Luckily, the French claim to have cured the unfortunate byproduct that is the hangover.

The offering, which is called Security Feel Better and is sold on the site Bring France Home, is a non-alcoholic digestive drink that, according to its product listing, “enables a better and faster assimilation of the drink you consume.”

The pear-flavored beverage is said to have miraculous abilities derived from the power of plants to “affect your digestion like nothing else.” Among the plants providing those miraculous effects are artichoke, angelica, Yunnan tea and lemon. The set – which comes with two bottles of the curative substance – is meant to be consumed in a split manner. For the best effects, it is recommended that users drink one bottle before they start drinking alcohol, and another at the end of the party.

And it’s cheap, costing just $7 for each package.

For the Security Buff 

A pet rock.

Okay, not really – but the Dojo by Bullguard looks exactly like a pet rock, albeit a glowy one. Also, the comparison is apt, because like any good pet, it protects one’s home from invaders – their digital home, anyway.

The Bullguard is actually a piece of security tech that protects one’s entire Wi-Fi network and everything on it – think laptops, tablets, smart lights, thermostats, baby monitors and more. The Dojo’s base station sits between a modem and Wi-Fi router, and essentially becomes the network’s manager and firewall. By tapping into the app, one can also check the security status of their network, approve new devices asking to join and adjust network settings.

The Dojo pebble (the pet rock) runs on AA batteries and keeps up a line of communication with the base station, using lighting signals to keep its owner updated on the security of their network. If the light is green, everything is good. Yellow means there is malware or a threat (which the system is taking care of) and red means something is happening that requires direct user intervention.

According to its maker, Dojo leverages machine learning and crowdsourced data gleaned from other (anonymized) Dojo users to spot – and stop – strange network behavior.

It is, however, more expensive than the average pet rock. While one can pick up a mineral for a pet for between $10 and $25 on the web, the Bullguard version costs just under $200.

For the Film Fanatic

Know anyone who misses the days of cameras that use film and often bemoans the fact that the art of photography is disappearing in the digital age, as people can snap and instantly see scores of pictures with their phone?

Good news: There’s a way to return to all the uncertainty that went into film photography without actually having to buy someone you love a camera that is 20 years out of date.

That solution is the Leica M10-D, a digital camera that has no built-in screen. If the photographer wants to see their pictures, they have to plug it into something with a screen, like a smartphone or laptop.

The design is meant to recreate the experience of shooting film, when one would not know what they had snapped until it was developed, while still providing an easy-to-use digital experience.

And while it might seem a bit like a step back, technologically speaking, the reviews indicate that among photo buffs and camera purists, there is something incredibly enjoyable about the experience.

“It’s an interesting gimmick, and one you could admittedly replicate with other digital cameras by resisting the temptation to peek at what you’ve shot. But using the M10-D feels like shooting a film Leica, and there’s something intangibly special about that,” wrote the reviewer for Time.

However, as is often the case, “intangibly special” translates to incredibly expensive; in the case of this camera, the price tag is $8,000.

One might consider, as a savings technique, opting for a less ephemeral experience in favor of just switching off the viewing screen on their less fancy digital camera.

But whatever one chooses to purchase – be it a robot mouse, a rock security technician, a French hangover cure or an intangibly special camera – at the end of the day, it is of course the thought that counts.

And, if the ticking clock gets past you and you miss the regular shipping deadlines, remember Amazon is offering delivery through Christmas Eve. It’s almost never too late to get it right.


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