The personal printing revolution is upon us. No, not picture printing — 3D printing. The MakerBot Replicator ($1,750) is a home-sized 3D printer with your choice of single or dual MakerBot Stepstruder MK8 extruders, an on-board LCD, control pad, and SD slot for loading your models, and the ability to print objects up to roughly 9" x 6" x 6" in two different colors or materials. All you need now is something to make.
We'll go ahead and let you try it first, but the folks behind Liquipel ($59) claim their clear coating "protects every feature of your device with a revolutionary waterproof shield." The Liquipel permanently bonds on the molecular level to your device, both inside and out, and is said to keep your phone working even if you drop it in water (creek, bath tub, Kool-Aid, etc.). Certain iPhone, HTC, Samsung, and Motorola devices can take the Liquipel treatment and their subsequent plunges now.
So let's say that you actually do like to tinker with electronics — if you're looking for a place to start, Minty Geek ($40) is as good as any. Taking its inspiration from the venerable Altoids tin, this pint-sized electronics lab includes a tray insert, linking wires, a 9V battery connector, a light-dependent resistor, a variable resistor, a breadboard, a capacitor, a relay, a switch, a speaker, and various transistors, resistors, and LEDs. Also offered is the Astronomer's Torch Kit ($30), shown above.
It's always fun to see the crazy things our geeky brethren are able to create with some sensors and a Wi-Fi connection, but unless you've got plenty of time and a penchant for coding, odds are those projects are out of reach. That's where Twine ($100 and up) comes in. Twine is a wi-fi- and sensor-laden gadget that hooks up with a web service to monitor whatever you want in real-time, updating a dedicated Twitter account when necessary. Sensors residing inside the 2.5-inch, soap-like square include a thermometer and accelerometer, and you can add external sensors with ease. Just don't forget to follow your own Twine, lest your warnings of a freezing house go unnoticed.
[Scouted by Taylor]
Oh sure, you could buy an iPad and over $300 worth of music apps instead, but then you'd miss out on all the colorful, tactile fun of the Teenage Engineering OP-1 Portable Synthesizer ($850). This all-in-one sound box features eight built-in synthesizer engines, multiple effects, four rotary encoders, an FM radio(!), a built-in four-track recorder, a color-coded interface, OLED display, and 16 hours of battery life.