Gadget-buying season — aka December — is maybe my favorite time of year. I love Googling a random problem I barely realized I had and finding out that someone has created a small machine to fix it for me. Read on for OZY’s roundup of the best gadgets and apps you can buy, whether you’re buying gifts for others or building your own fortress of tech solutions.
Fiona Zublin, Senior Editor
mindfulness and health
1. Oura Ring
Sure, you could use a wearable that goes around your wrist, but this fitness tracker cleverly disguised as a ring is so much cooler: It tracks your pulse, activity and sleep with impressive accuracy — and can even detect a fever, which is why it’s been used in some COVID-19-related studies.
2. Lief Rx
This little patch could revolutionize at-home care for mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Worn under a shirt, the patch measures heart rate variability in real time, teaching users to self-regulate their body in moments of extreme stress or anxiety, and optionally connecting them with a virtual physician. The company’s founder, Rohan Dixit, was inspired by how meditation improves the mental health of Tibetan monks — so much so that he studied their brain waves.
Launched by two women of color, this app is working to change the face of the mostly white world of wellness and self-care. There are daily, calming meditations, and the engaged app community offers support and advice for when you’re feeling alone.
4. Forest App
Even before the pandemic, a lot of us had trouble concentrating, and it’s only gotten harder. Forest is a gamified way to stay off your phone and focus: You plant a tree and set a goal for how long you want to concentrate, then you have to put your phone down to let the tree grow. Eventually you’ll have a little forest that your friends using the app can see. You can also spend the virtual coins you earn in the app to plant real-life trees.
5. AirBird CO2 Detector
Modeled after the literal canaries that were used to alert coal miners to the dangers of carbon monoxide, this bird-shaped air quality monitor will emit a little chirp or a glowing light when the air inside your home office — or closet — desperately needs some ventilation.
Each year, the Moguls in the Making business plan pitch competition offers Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students an opportunity to learn and practice vital skills. Five students from Alabama A&M University won the second annual competition, which took place virtually this month, with their proposed solution to the lack of access to quality food and nutrition education in Detroit. The event gives 50 students — grouped into teams of five from 10 HBCUs — an opportunity to develop and present business plans aimed at solving key issues in the context of today’s economic and social climate. The competition is presented by Ally Financial Inc., the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and entertainer and entrepreneur Big Sean’s foundation, the Sean Anderson Foundation. Winners receive scholarships and internship opportunities with Ally.
Your ski trip just got an upgrade. These goggles will map the mountain, give you instant stats on elevation and speed, help you find your friends on the slopes and allow you to high-def video record your epic runs. If you want to join the beta test and give feedback to the goggles’ developers, it will cost you about $1,200 to snag a pair.
Look out for this new pricey fitness craze: It’s a mirror that doubles as a screen, meaning it can train you, motivate you and eventually make you the fairest of them all, presumably. The Mirror also comes with fitness bands, curated playlists and personal training services that allow experts to monitor you from afar.
Regular jackets are for peasants! This battery-powered one feels like snuggling up to the radiator, which is particularly useful on long wintry hikes that allow you to enjoy nature and get the heart pumping while socially distancing.
We’ve wanted Chris Hemsworth to create a training app since Ghostbusters, and he finally did! While the personalized daily workouts and meal plans will almost certainly make you more buff (and help pass the time this winter), they probably won’t turn you into a hot Australian movie star. You can always try, though.
5. Exercise Jammies
There’s a revolution going on in cosmeto-textiles — fabrics infused with substances that help with weight loss, relaxation or athletic performance. One already on the market is Under Armour’s Recover line, whose fabric uses infrared tech to reflect heat back at your body and help your muscles recover faster.
We all know how it feels to wake up after eating three bags of pizza rolls. Like us, pets need nutritious meals to feel their best. Our friends at Spot & Tango have created revolutionary, 100 percent human-grade dog food so your BFF can live their happiest life. Best of all, meal plans start at only $6.99 per week with free shipping.
It’s all about how you start the day, and starting the day with a beautifully designed alarm clock that also makes coffee sounds pretty good to us. This heavy-duty robot butler (well, almost) has a tiny fridge to keep the milk fresh for your morning beverage, and you’ll wake up to the smell of bubbling coffee.
2. Habitica App
It turns out the best way to make humans do anything is turn it into a game and give them prizes for moving forward. Habitica takes an approach that apps like Duolingo have made famous for learning languages, and applies it to your life. You tell it what your goals are, and it takes care of the little bursts of dopamine you get when you complete tasks — and check them off by conquering video game monsters.
It doesn’t sound sexy, but this is maybe the most important addition to your home office. The moldable glue (keep it in the fridge until you need it) can be used for sticking things to the wall, mending your favorite coffee mug, even fixing a fraying charger cable. You could get the black/white/gray pack, but come on, you know you want the bright colors.
4. Personal Sound Bubble
This tech is still in development, but we’re keeping an eye on Silentium. The Israeli company is working on a foot-and-a-half zone of silence centered on a person’s head, a bubble of calm that will allow you to focus even in the most chaotic of working-from-home-during-a-pandemic environments.
You’re never gonna make it through winter with that boring keyboard. Instead of springing for a new computer, refurbish your keycaps instead — we like this trippy Vaporwave set that looks like a 1990s after-school special, but go ahead and browse the various wacky themes if something else is more you.
CNN journalist and star of This Is Life, Our America and The View Lisa Ling gives Carlos the inside scoop on her cutting-edge journalism — from prisons and biker gangs to teenage porn addicts. Plus, she opens up about her own personal struggles with fertility, with some surprising advice for young, aspirational women. Watch now.
Remember how in Little Women, Jo and Laurie used a tiny handmade PO box in the woods to exchange letters? This is like that for the digital age. The digitally connected wooden box can sit on your counter accruing messages, drawings and photos from your loved ones. Or get a pair so you can send them as well.
2. Clubhouse App
This so-far invite-only app combines the best features of Snapchat, Reddit and voicemail. It’s audio only, and messages swiftly disappear. Plus, you might meet someone famous on it: The app has quickly become popular with Silicon Valley’s glitterati — and celebrities like Oprah — plus you might see a few OZY stars there when you sign up.
3. Pocket-Size Polaroid Printer
You gotta make new memories somehow — so cover your walls with the cool, vintage-y photos you and your friends took in the beforetimes. This mini Polaroid photo printer will get you nostalgic in more ways than one.
4. Phone Sanitizer and Charger
Speaking of your phone, you’re probably still using it more than usual because it’s your only way to keep in touch. That drains the battery. Plus, all that touching makes it even dirtier than usual, and you don’t want to know how dirty phones usually are. Solve both problems at once with this wireless charging station that simultaneously uses UV light to scrub your phone of 99.9 percent of surface germs.
5. Furbo Pet Camera
As people start to go back to work, imagine how bereft everyone’s house pets will be. Months of never being alone, and suddenly they’ve got no one to hang out with all day. To stay in touch, sort of, try this camera, which allows you not only to see your pet but also to give them treats from afar. And that’s just the fuzzy tip of the iceberg: You can also get robots to play with your cat or pick up your dog’s poop, if you’re so inclined.
To really up your fancy-schmancy home cook game this winter, you need this seemingly niche but actually super-useful gadget, which allows you to infuse butter, oil or even honey with any flavor you like (and yes, that includes cannabis).
2. Moxie Showerhead
Everyone knows that singing in the shower is great. But this showerhead takes it to the next level, with built-in speakers that leverage a shower’s pitch-perfect acoustics. Pipe in some karaoke tracks and get really loud.
3. Vacu Vin Wine Saver
One thing you figure out quickly while on lockdown: If you try to finish every bottle of wine the same night you open it, you’re gonna run into trouble. Wine stoppers are fine, but this vacuum sealer is really what you need to make your wine last longer than one solo party.
Remember parties? This sleek vibrator was designed as a piece of jewelry you can wear out (before, if you feel like it, getting busy with yourself in the bathroom). We choose to endorse it in an act of hope that one day we will go to parties again.
Tarot cards and fortunetellers serve a function similar to therapy in that they force your mind to focus on the problems you’re facing in new ways. While you could (and should) use VR to explore the universe and the oceans and stuff, why not also use it to explore the future, with this personalized VR fortunetelling experience that combines beautiful art with just enough New Agey jargon to feel both real and kooky.