Know who's knocking on your door — no matter what time of day — from any place on the planet with the DoorBot ($200). Whether you're just venturing into the world of complete home automation, or you already have your place efficiently networked to a range of devices, this is a great piece to add to your setup. It easily connects to your smartphone or tablet over WiFi, letting you communicate with anyone at your door (from inside your home, at the office, or away on vacation). It features night vision, an adjustable camera angle, a rechargeable battery, and the ability to connect to your existing doorbell wiring.
Faced with the choice of spending your afternoon mopping the floors, or doing just about anything else, nine times out of ten, you'll choose something else. But with the iRobot Braava Floor Mopping Robot ($300) you'll never have to mop your floors again. The rechargeable battery lets it dry sweep for up to three hours on a single charge, or wet mop for up to two hours. Its intelligent sensors know when to avoid carpets, raised surfaces, and area rugs, while its perfect edge technology lets it get right up against walls and other obstacles.
If you're considering upgrading your Fitbit Flex, then you owe it to yourself to check out the updated Fitbit Force ($130), the company's newest wearable activity tracker. While it still contains most of the features of the earlier model — you wear it on your wrist, it tracks your steps, the distance you've traveled, the calories you've burned, your minutes of activity, and the quality of your sleep — it also adds a couple of key features. It has an improved blue OLED screen letting you read the display more easily, as well as an altimeter, adding floors climbed to the data it tracks. It also features a clock, and a stopwatch, as well as the ability to sync with your phone automatically over Bluetooth.
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.
Whether you're using it to digitally map your surroundings, scout the terrain for your next outdoor adventure, or realize your lifelong dream of becoming a pilot, the SenseFly eBee Drone ($25,000) is one versatile UAV. Small, light, and portable, the eBee features foam modular construction, letting it break down to fit in a carry-on size case, and launch from your hand — so it's easy to use and take anywhere. It features artificial intelligence and comes with flight planning software, allowing even the most inexperienced pilots to fly and land with ease. Professional-quality mapping software and an onboard 16 megapixel camera give you a view of the ground like you've never seen before, ideal for charting a run down an unfamiliar slope, plotting your course down a river, or just getting a bird's-eye-view of your city.
While we're still a long way off from the complete interconnectivity of the things that make our everyday tasks easier, the Nymi Heartbeat Wristband ($80) could get us a lot closer. At the core of this wearable device is a heartbeat sensor that determines the unique rhythm of your pulse, using it as a form of authentication. It can then, in theory, be used to interact and gain access to a range of devices around you: your car, your home, your lights, your smartphone, your laptop, even the payment terminal at your local coffee shop. In addition to the heartbeat sensor, it also includes motion and proximity sensors, giving you the ability to actually interact with these devices through gesture-based input. While there's still work to be done on making it compatible with everything, the future looks pretty promising (available early 2014).
Whether you like to jot down notes about all the craft beers you enjoy, or you just find inspiration at the bottom of a pint glass, Field Notes Drink Local Notebooks ($10) were made for you. These 48-page notebooks come in packs of three, wrapped in a cardboard carrier, and include a letter-pressed coaster for your brew. You can choose between blank, lined, and grid paper, and the notebooks come in beer-themed colors: choose ales (stout, amber ale, and india pale ale) or lagers (pilsner, bock, and pale lager).
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.
Make your bedroom (or any small space in your house or apartment) more comfortable as the weather gets dryer with the Oskar Humidifier ($125). This small, styling humidifier runs silently and efficiently, letting you get a restful night's sleep thanks to the its quiet mechanism and night-mode LED lights. A built-in fragrance dispenser lets it do double duty, while the automatic shut-off helps you conserve energy when it runs out of water.
Ever been in limbo about whether or not you're safe to drive after a couple drinks with friends? The Aura Breathalyzer ($150) aims to improve your judgement in those situations, and is doing it with a product that not only works well but looks great too. Utilizing fuel cell sensors, the same technology used in police handheld devices and most court-issued vehicle ignition interlock systems, this breathalyzer gives you the peace of mind needed to decide whether to get behind the wheel or ask for a ride home. And the sleek, scratch resistant display only adds to the attractiveness of an already incredibly practical product.
You already do basically everything with your phone — pay your bills, keep in touch with friends and family, do your shopping, set your fantasy lineup — you might as well use it to take care of your pets. With Pintofeed ($180), all you need is a smartphone to make sure Sparky or Pookie never miss a meal, whether you're working late, on vacation, or just too lazy to feed the animal that loves you unconditionally and relies on you for literally everything. This smart feeder can hold up to ten pounds of food (kept fresh thanks to airtight seals), and dispenses it according to your wireless command or an intelligent schedule that learns your pet's routine. It accommodates food of various sizes, and can be programmed to dole out any amount. The only thing easier would be not owning a pet at all.
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.