Soldering is hard. Using Bare Conductive Electric Paint ($10 and up) is easy. This ingenious paint is nontoxic, solvent-free, water soluble, and most importantly conductive, allowing you to simply draw usable circuits on a variety of surfaces, including paper, plastic, fabric, and even conventional circuit boards. It comes in handy, easy-to-use tubes, as well as jars — for larger applications — and in a variety of sets that include instructions and materials for completing a variety of electronics projects.
Get the most out of your iPhone (or pretty much any smartphone out there), whether you're shooting photos or catching up on today's news, with the Glif ($30) tripod mount and smartphone stand. This simple device can mount to any standard tripod, letting you get the most out of that little camera you bring everywhere. Better still, it adjusts to fit any phone thanks to the included hex key, so it can prop up your phone at various angles to maximize your viewing pleasure. Being made from recyclable rubberized plastic is just an added bonus.
There's no denying it, computers, software, hardware, microprocessors, control nearly every thing we interact with on a daily basis — from the cars we drive and the toys we play with to the appliances we use and the conveniences we rely on. In spite of this, comparatively few people understand computing technology. The Kano DIY Computer Kit ($100) aims to change that, empowering everyone from grade school kids to adults and everyone in between to build and program their own computer. These kits include all the things you need to build a functioning computer — but the fun doesn't end there. Once you've completed your computer, you are free to program games, and other software, hack into the command line, and much more. It's the embodiment of the idea of learning while doing.
Keep your phone fully-charged — even when you're miles from the nearest wall outlet — with the Fluxmob Bolt ($60). This handy device is one part wall charger for any USB-enabled device, and one part battery, so you don't necessarily have to worry about being connected to the power grid to get some juice. Simply plug it in when you have access to power, and let your phone or tablet charge — the built-in battery charges at the same time. Then, when you're out on the move and in need of a recharge, just plug your device into the box, and let it go (it's good for up to two charges).
In a partnership with Korg sure to please electronics tinkerers and synth musicians alike, LittleBits ($100 and up) is the perfect combination of DIY circuit-board construction and musical exploration. Each kit — whether you choose the base kit, the premium kit, or the deluxe kit — requires no soldering or programming, all you need to do is plug your circuits together, add found materials, and start playing. The kits also include a 35-page instruction booklet that contains all the details you need to construct your own keytar, synth spin table, noise-making shoes, and much more. Or you can use your imagination to construct the homemade synth instrument of your dreams.
Easily digitize all of your favorite stuff — whether it's old family photos, maps from past vacations, scraps of memories, newspaper clips, paper journals, sketchbooks, even coins and other small items — no matter where you find yourself, with the Doxie Flip Scanner ($150). This portable flatbed scanner is made to work anywhere, small enough to fit in a bag or large pocket, it features battery power and flash SD memory, so you can use it without the need for a computer. Use it as a standard scanner, or remove the lid to flip it over and scan nearly any object. A window lets you see through the scanner, letting you perfectly line up your subject every time.
Don't try to hide your addiction to singing in the shower — embrace it with the Kohler Moxie Speaker Showerhead ($150). This clever piece of bathroom hardware embeds a speaker in the middle of a full-spray showerhead. And not just any speaker — a Bluetooth-compatible speaker that lets you recharge it on the counter, snap it back into the showerhead using the embedded magnets, and play music wirelessly from your phone or tablet. Just don't forget to clean yourself up while you're at it.
Finally, an electric grill for the culinary impaired among us who wouldn't know how long to cook a chicken breast if it came with directions stamped into the meat. The T-Fal OptiGrill ($210) comes programmed already with the ideal time and temperature for a range of common grill items — everything from fish and steak to poultry and sandwiches — taking the guesswork out of indoor grilling. It features a cooking surface that's large enough to accommodate a meal for an entire family (or one really hungry guy), as well as non-stick removable grill plates, a floating hinge that lets you fit large cuts of meat, and a large drip tray that makes cleanup a breeze.
While it may look like a mad science experiment, or some weird art piece gone wrong, the NanoLeaf LED Light Bulb ($35) represents a huge leap forward in lightbulb technology. This bulb replaces the average incandescent bulb in your home, using much less energy thanks to its LED light source — it's so efficient, in fact, that it will pay for itself in energy savings over its lifetime. The bulb also maintains a comparatively low temperature, making it safe to touch even after extended use. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, it contains no mercury, and unlike most other bulbs, it casts light in all directions, due to its unique shape and LED placement.
We've all been there — stabbing violently with a broom stick at the annoying, chirping puck on our ceiling, trying to silence it — but a smoke alarm shouldn't be a nuisance, it should passively keep you safe without worrying about it. The Nest Protect ($130) won't drive you crazy, but it will still keep you safe. It features a glowing status ring (green means everything is okay, yellow gives you a warning about a potential problem, and red means there's an emergency), real voice alerts, and an interactive sensor that responds to the wave of a hand, letting you dismiss alerts if you burn your dinner. Set them up throughout your house and instantly access the status of various rooms from your smartphone or tablet, or use them to automatically light your way at night with the pathlight feature. Best of all, it interacts with other Nest devices, keeping you safer without you thinking about it.
You all know by now how bad it is for you to spend the entire day at the office sitting, hunched over your keyboard — but most of us don't do anything about it. The Stir Kinetic Desk ($3,890) takes the thought out of good work posture, subtly encouraging you to sit down and stand up at your desk. The built-in touchscreen functions as a brain for this desk, letting you easily double-tap to transform it from sitting mode to standing mode, and back again. It even learns your schedule, automatically raising when it knows you usually stand. Built-in charging ports and cord control keeps all your cables organized, while its minimalist, modern design looks great in your office or studio.
Even the most attentive pet owners can't be around to look after their animals all day, every day — but with Petcube ($150) you can watch, speak to, and even play with your dog or cat from your smartphone. A wide-angle HD camera gives you a great view of your pet using their iOS app, while a built-in speaker lets you speak to them. A low-intensity laser also allows you to play with your pet through the app, so you can entertain them from far away. This durable four- by four -by four-inch cube is made from aluminum and glass, so it looks great, and with customizable skins and covers, you can make it your own.
Some consumer products leave a lasting mark on the design world, inspiring others to innovate (and in many cases imitate) for generations — a disproportionate number of those things came from Braun, and in particular, industrial designer Dieter Rams. The Braun ET66 Calculator ($50), though an incredibly simple device, is an often-copied piece of industrial design. Go ahead, grab your iPhone and open up the calculator app — it ought to look pretty familiar. While there are plenty of calculators (and apps) out there with more robust functionality, there are none as iconic.
Make dead devices a thing of the past with the Dark Energy Reservoir ($129). You've all been in situations where your smartphone, tablet, or camera needed some extra juice — whether you're traveling on a plane, train, or bus, you're in an emergency scenario, or you're outdoors miles from an outlet. This slim, portable charger holds enough power to charge the average smartphone for an entire week, and it does it as fast as a wall outlet. With the ability to charge two devices at once, and compatibility with any USB charging device, you'll never have to worry about charging again.
The Jawbone Mini Jambox ($160) is your smartphone's new best friend — here's hoping your headphones don't develop an inferiority complex. Perfectly-sized for your pocket or bag (just 6" by 2 1/4" by 1"), this speaker is built to go wherever you go, but don't let its small size fool you. Packed inside its attractive aluminum exterior are two acoustic stereo drivers and a passive bass radiator that produce the kind of sound you'd expect from something much larger. Bluetooth and stereo connectivity, 10 hours of battery life, a built-in microphone, and a range of color options make it the ideal choice for high-quality sound on the move.
Whether you're lucky enough to own a Makerbot Replicator, or you've just been following tech news lately, you know all about the incredible potential of home 3-D printers. The Makerbot Digitizer ($1,550) takes that potential one step further, letting you scan everyday objects, and easily create digital models for 3-D printing. Just place an object on the turntable, and with a couple of button presses the laser will scan the object, saving it for easy use on a Makerbot or most other 3-D printers. This tool is so simple to use it doesn't even require any knowledge of 3-D modeling software or any patching, stitching, and repairing — so you can just start making.
While none of you would dare leave your phone unprotected without a security pin, you also know what a pain it is to enter it every time you want to check new notifications. But, for those fortunate enough to pick up a Moto X, that pain will be a thing of the past, thanks to the Motorola Skip ($15). This small clip attaches to your clothing, and with a quick tap of your phone, you can unlock it — no more pesky pass codes. It will come in a range of colors to fit your customized phone, and will also include three Skip dots (which you can leave any place you frequently use your phone, and function the same as the clip).
Instantly share your photos across social networks — or if you never learned to share, just store them in the cloud — with theQ Camera ($200). Thanks to 3G connectivity (and internal two-gig storage for when you're off the grid) you upload each of your shots to a web-based service called theQ Lab, where you can store, edit, and post photos from any device. Alternatively, with two pushes of the upload button, you can directly share a picture to any networks you've already configured. This small, five megapixel camera is also waterproof, features a built-in diffused LED flash, manual focus wheel, and a fixed lens with an f2.4 aperture.
Anyone who hunts with dogs knows how helpful they can be — and what a pain it can be to keep track of them. The Garmin Astro Dog Tracking System ($530) lets you track up to ten sporting dogs at once, with the convenience of a customizable GPS device. It has a range of up to nine miles, thanks to a steel VHF antenna. The top-mounted GPS/GLONASS receiver gives it excellent location performance. Bark detection lets you know when your dog has spotted something, even if he's out of range. A rescue mode helps preserve battery for a longer period of time, in case you and your dog get separated.
Whether you're a musician, vocalist, or podcaster, you can take the stress out of home audio recording with the Nessie Microphone ($120). It adapts to whatever audio you're recording, automatically processing sound so you can just focus on your work. Three processing modes — one optimized for rich vocals, another for detailed instrumentation, and a third for raw audio (in case you want to manually edit post production) — let you work the way you want to. A built-in pop filter and an internal shock mount keep your audio sounding clear, without the need for additional gadgets. It features a zero-latency headphone output and USB plug-and-play compatibility with Mac and PC.