Sneak peek: 15 gadgets to put on your holiday wish list

Some of the hottest devices and gizmos that will hit stores (and online stores) during the holiday season

gift guide preview
Stephen Sauer

Start making the list and checking it twice

The calendar may say it’s the beginning of fall, but that won’t prevent us from giving you a sneak peek at some of the hottest devices and gadgets that will top your holiday wish list. Here’s a bunch of cool stuff that we’re hoping to get our hands on to present in our 17th annual Cool Yule Tools holiday gift guide (coming Nov. 14). Keep in mind that these devices are not yet reviewed, so we’re not giving these our official seal of approval for cool yule goodness, but rather an indication of some things that could be in the final guide.

psvr s 01
Sony Computer Entertainment

Sony Playstation VR

This holiday season will be the first indication whether virtual reality will jump into the mainstream beyond the higher-end HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets. Leading the charge will be this headset from Sony for its PS4 gaming console. Launching Oct. 13, the headset will provide gamers with a less expensive option for VR experiences and a variety of gaming experiences in the virtual world.

Royole Moon 3D virtual mobile theater

Royole Moon 3D Virtual Mobile Theater

Sony isn't the only company offering VR experiences this holiday (we also expect to see Samsung continue to make its Gear VR push). This headset, by Royole, will support VR gaming apps and experiences, but also “3D virtual mobile theater”, letting users experience videos in high-definition 1080p with surround sound audio. The device is a proof of concept for the company, which makes ultra-thin sensors and thin, flexible displays that can be used in a number of other applications. 

Plox levitating Death Star speaker

Plox Death Star levitating Bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth audio speakers are abundant in the consumer marketplace, but this is the first one we’ve seen that levitates (via magnets) and spins. While it's a bit pricey for a Bluetooth speaker ($179) we're sure that it will be a conversation centerpiece at your next holiday get-together, especially for any Star Wars fans attending.

aera smart home fragrance

Aera Smart Home Fragrance device

This one might be a tough sell for people who like to add aromatic ambiance to their homes via candles, incense or the occasional squeeze of a can of Febreeze. Using interchangeable fragrance capsules, the Aera uses only a "trace  concentration of scent molecules", yet cover a room with an equal amount. The system includes a mobile app for scheduling scents or managing multiple units, and offers eight different scents (including two holiday-inspired fragrances).

Sleep Number it bed
Sleep Number

Sleep Number it bed

At first glance we thought this was a bed/mattress designed specifically for the IT professional, but then realized that we read “it” as “IT” after years of conditioning. However, there is some interesting technology in this system. The it bed is aimed at the first-time mattress buyer, but also has integrations with third-party health and fitness devices and apps, including Nest, Fitbit and Apple Health. These partnerships allow for information to be traded between the devices and the bed. For example, if your Fitbit says you had a rough workout, the bed can then adjust itself to a softer sleep number to help alleviate your sore muscles. If the bed detects that you’re sweating, the it bed contacts the Nest thermostat to increase the temperature. 

Muse brain-sensing meditation headband

Muse brain-sensing meditation headband

Many devices and apps have tried to help with meditation, but a lot of times your mind wanders and you end up not getting any benefit from the activity. The Muse uses EEG sensors on the adjustable headband to let you know in real-time when your mind is wandering and gets you back to a meditative state. The latest release (next month) will include content from meditation experts, including Deepak Chopra and Dr. Joel and Michelle Levey. 

Pearl Automotive Rear Camera License Plate bracket
Pearl Automotive

Pearl RearVision backup camera system

Having cameras in the back of your car so you can see what’s behind you when you’re backing up is something that most new cars now have (or will have by 2018, thanks to new regulations). The Pearl RearVision lets you add a rear camera system to your older or existing car with this license-plate bracket and smartphone app. The device includes two video cameras that give a 180-degree viewing angle, and it’s powered by solar energy, so you don’t need to have this installed by George the mechanic. An adapter works with your car’s on-board diagnostics port and communicates via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to get the video image to appear on your smartphone via an app. 

Epson FastFoto

Epson FastFoto

Converting a box (or photo album) full of flat photos to its digital equivalent has always been a manual and time-consuming affair. Epson hopes to change this with its FastFoto device, which can scan photos in a matter of seconds. In addition, software can help you organize the photos and provide restoration/color correction features for old photos. Then you can reprint the photos using newfangled ink and printer technology (printer sold separately). Circle of life.

Ignition Design Labs Portal Wi-Fi router
Ignition Design Labs

Portal Wi-Fi router for urban environments

Trying to get a fast Wi-Fi connection in an urban location is difficult, as multiple networks often have to use the same channels, despite advances in channel switching and collision avoidance. To combat this, the Portal Wi-Fi router utilizes the UNII-2 portion of the 5GHz frequency band, reserved for devices that also include radar detection (it also uses other portions of the 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands). This device was able to get FCC approval in order to come to the market, so let’s all appreciate the ability to get better Wi-Fi for city dwellers. 

Lenovo Yoga Book

Lenovo Yoga Book

Announced earlier this year at the IFA show, this dual-use notebook looks and acts like a physical paper notebook - a screen on the left can read information from a digital pen that writes on the right side of the device, whether you use the pad or a regular piece of paper and pen. In addition, that writing surface changes to a virtual keyboard when the device is converted from a tablet to a computer. It’s the most innovative design I’ve seen in a long time in this space.

Flir thermal image device Scout TK

Flir Scout TK

Thermal imaging devices let you see the heat map signature on a lot of different things, whether it’s something hiding behind the walls of your house, where the energy is escaping out of your windows, or just what your kid’s temperature is. This device takes things to the great outdoors, letting you discover heat signatures for different animals that might be out in the woods. Perfect for the summer campfire to see if anything is watching you! Yikes!

PowerVision PowerEgg drone

PowerEgg consumer drone

If you’re serious about your drone hobby and want to move beyond the basic system, check out the PowerEgg. This consumer drone is aimed at both enthusiasts and first-time drone owners, with an all-in-one  system that looks like an egg when it’s all packed up (no bulky carrying cases here). The system includes a gesture-based, one-handed controller (called the PowerEgg Maestro), giving users the ability to take off and land with a press of a button. The $1,288 system includes 4K UHD video recording, a flight time of about 23 minutes and an optical positioning system that lets you fly indoors and low to the ground. 

Air Hogs Connect Mission Drone
Spin Master

Air Hogs Connect Mission Drone

This game ($149.99, available Oct. 6) combines a remote control quad-copter with an augmented reality video game to give users a chance to practice their RC flying skills in an indoor environment. Using an app and a tracker mat, users can control the physical vehicle within the AR game world. When the drone is recharging, you can continue to use the app to perfect your flying skills. Very cool.

Altec Lansing Omni Jacket Ultra
Altec Lansing

Altec Lansing Omni Jacket Ultra

Sometimes, going big on your Bluetooth speaker system is a good thing. The Omni Jacket Ultra is the “big brother" of the company's Omni Jacket speaker, an omni-directional surround-sound wireless speaker with a durable protective case, mounting brackets and cables for any outdoor adventure you can think of. The Ultra model also includes a subwoofer, has a 60+ hour battery life and can pair with up to seven other speakers if you want to blow everyone out of the water (or into the water if you want). The system is waterproof, shockproof and snow-proof, but not Kajagoogoo-proof (hey, whatever you play on the speakers is not our concern).

Vayyar Imaging WalabotDIY
Vayyar Imaging

WalabotDIY 3D imaging tool

This product could literally be called a "cool tool". The WalabotDIY ($299) is a 3D imaging tool aimed at consumers, especially those interested in home renovation, construction or other do-it-yourselfers. The device gives users “x-ray vision” that lets you see through drywall, cement and other materials to help find the location of pipes, wires and even rodents’ nests (ewwwww!). It’s more than a stud-finder, this will help you if you’re looking to hang something on the wall or trying to locate where that pipe is leaking. The device works with Android 5.0 and higher smartphones, connecting magnetically to the back of the phone. The app then gives you the 3D image when the device is placed on the wall.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.