The future is here, if you get your family and friends one of these tech gifts that offer features that you might see in a sci-fi movie or TV series.
December 6, 2017
This holiday season there are plenty of great phones, tablets, and other gizmos worthy of your spending dollar. But many of these products seem a bit too familiar. It’s 2017 and the future is here! Tech from settings like Star Trek are quickly becoming reality. So why be content with the same old boring toys?
If you’re looking for something that truly looks like it belongs in the future, we’ve gathered up a list of gifts that stand out in a sea of sameness, offering a glimpse of a future that once seemed like something relegated to the realm of Sci-Fi.
ZTE Axon M: A phone that’s more than just a phone
For years we’ve heard about how the future of smartphones and tablets will include ones with flexible or foldable displays. It’s 2017 and finally someone decided to move past concepts and actually deliver. That someone is ZTE.
The ZTE Axon M might not have a truly foldable display, but it’s a real-world solution that gives us a taste of this promised future.
The ZTE Axon M uses two 5.2-inch IPS Full HD panels that are connected to a hinge that, when it is folded out, turns the device into one that can be used as a single, 6.75-inch tablet-like device.
As you can imagine, this phone stands out in a crowd. One moment you have an ordinary device, but with the flip of a hinge you get a product that brings mult-tasking to a new level. With the Axon M you can not only extend your apps onto both displays, but you can run two different apps at the same time. You can even fold it in a tent-like mode and watch a movie while a friend can see what you are seeing on the second screen.
Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique phones you can buy right now. You can get it via AT&T for $724.99 without a contract, or for $24.17 a month for 24 months.
Asus ZenFone AR: Blend reality with the virtual world
Virtual reality and augmented reality are two technology trends that are slowly but surely gaining traction. The recently released ASUS ZenFone AR is well equipped to handle both. It is the first, and will likely be the last, smartphone that incorporates support for both Google’s Daydream View VR headset and the company’s Tango AR platform.
The VR part of the phone is pretty straightforward. Owners can buy one of Google’s Daydream View headsets, connect it to the phone, and run any Daydream VR game and app. The Tango features are more complicated. The ZenFone AR has special sensors and cameras that are designed to map out the space beyond the phone and use it for AR apps made especially for Tango. You can, for example, map out your living room and then use a Tango app to place items in the space that you mapped, so you can see how they would look if you added them in real life. You can imagine this as a primitive form of Star Trek’s tricorder.
The bad news is that Google decided to retire the Tango platform just a few weeks after the ASUS ZenFone AR launched, in favor or ARCore, which lets developers add AR features in Android apps without the need for special hardware and sensors in phones. The ZenFone AR is still a pretty powerful phone on its own, however, so you can still use it as a regular handset, while also checking out its more futuristic features. You can get it unlocked for the starting price of $599.99.
Nintendo Switch: It’s a console, no it’s a portable. No, it’s both.
Nintendo tries to do new and different things with its home consoles, and its most recent release, the Nintendo Switch is no exception. It’s been designed so that it can turn quickly from a high-end game console that you hook up to your TV over to a portable handheld console.
When on the go you can play for up to six hours thanks to a built in battery. You can also play it with two of the console’s Joy-Con controllers, one on each side, or you and a friend can play games on the portable screen, each with a Joy-Con in their hand. You can even put a pair of these new controllers in a Joy-Con grip accessory, if you want a more old fashioned console experience.
One day we will all play games like this, switching from a mobile device over to the big TV screen. The Nintendo Switch offers a chance to get in on the ground floor on what we think will be the future of video games. You can get the Nintendo Switch right now for $299.
Lenovo Yoga Book: Part tablet, part laptop, all future
While tablets are great for watching movies and otherwise checking out media content, they are not so useful for work. Lenovo wanted to bridge the gap between tablets and regular laptops with the innovative Yoga Book. Available in versions running on either Android or Windows 10, the Yoga Book’s biggest feature is its Halo keyboard. It can project a virtual full-sized laptop keyboard for work, but that keyboard can also completely disappear. Owners can then use the included stylus on the secondary screen’s Create Mod, for writing notes or for drawing artwork that can be saved on Lenovo’s own note app.
Come to think of it, this is a bit like the PADD devices you might have seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
While reviews have claimed that the keyboard takes some getting used to, this kind of functionality will likely become more commonplace for smaller tablets and/or notebooks. The ability to write and draw without the need to access the main display could be seen in future products. At the moment, the Android versions of the Yoga Book is available for $313 at Amazon, while the Windows 10 version is priced at $393.
Sense with Voice Sleep System
Everyone is looking for new and better ways to sleep better at night. A recently launched product called Sense is designed to not only help you sleep better, but it can even monitor your activities while you are sleeping. The Sense device itself, which looks a bit like the inside of a golf ball, is placed on your bed table or nightstand, while a Sense clip is fastened to one of your pillows. The Sense device can generate ambient sounds and white noise designed to make you fall asleep faster and more soundly, and its alarm can wake you up in the morning when you are sleeping the lightest.
The clip sensor collects data based on your movement at night, and with the included smartphone app, can give you the numbers on your specific sleep cycles so you can know what steps to take to optimize your bedtime experience. You can get the Sense device right now at Amazon for $55.
Amazon Echo: control your digital life with nothing more than your voice
Perhaps more than any other product, the Echo connected speakers from Amazon can make you feel like you are in a Star Trek episode. With the speaker’s use of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant, you can simply ask it for information, or to play music, or to watch a movie in natural language. You and members of your family can also connect Echo speakers to smart home products like light bulbs, locks, cameras and more and command them with your voice.
The standard Amazon Echo is now in a second generation version, and the smaller and cheaper Echo Dot provides much of the same features. The recently launched Echo Plus combines a smart speaker with a smart hub for more direct control of connected devices in the home. The Echo Show adds a 7-inch display for watching videos and even making video calls. Finally, the upcoming Echo Spot (which starts shipping in mid-December) is a smaller puck-shaped version of the Show with its own display.
If you don’t have a lot to spend on gifts, the $50 Amazon Echo Dot is a really great starting point.
Samsung CHG90 Series Curved 49-Inch Gaming Monitor: this beautiful curvy beast is straight out of Sci-Fi film
We don’t have Star Trek’s holodeck yet, but PC gamers who want to truly get an immersive experience without having to put on VR glasses should check out Samsung’s huge 49-inch curved gaming monitor. In very basic terms, you are getting the equivalent of two 24-inch curved screens merged into one, with a resolution of 3,840 X 1,080 and an 32:9 aspect ratio. The massive screen, combined with its curved design, means that if you are playing the latest Call of Duty game, you will be literally surrounded by the the battlefield, directly in your eye and in your peripheral vision as well.
In addition to its sheer size, this monitor from Samsung includes support for HDR10 and its own QLED Quantum Dot technology to make sure that the image is the best it can be. If you own an AMD Radeon graphics chip, the monitor also supports its FreeSync 2 tech that helps to sync up the display refresh rate with little to no image tearing in games. As you might expect, this kind of tech doesn’t come cheap; you can buy the monitor at Amazon for $1,430, but it may be worth it if you really want to feel inside the game.
You don’t have to settle for boring tech. As the above gifts show, there are plenty of great looking tech items out there that truly look like they are from a Sci-Fi movie set. Even better, they open up new possibilities that just weren’t possible even a few years ago.