Make the space you’re spending most of your time in a little bit smarter with Google’s new smart speaker. “Hey Google” it and get it to play any of your favourite music, ask it the weather, connect it to your calendar or your lighting – any of that future stuff. The Nest Audio is 75 per cent louder than the original Google Home and has 50 per cent stronger bass, so expect some robust sound.
$130, the Source (First Canadian Place, Eaton Centre and many others), thesource.ca
Even if it’s just tracking the journey from your couch to your kitchen and back again, this piece of wearable tech is the quintessential fitness gadget. It’s got built in Alexa and can track your steps, your sleep, your stress, your skin temperature. It can deliver your texts and emails. It can even hear your thoughts (probably). For the splurger.
$430, Best Buy (Eaton Centre, 2400 Yonge and others), bestbuy.ca
Even in tech, everything old becomes new again. This instant camera (like a Polaroid but not a Polaroid, cuz that’s a brand name) let’s you snap a photo and then watch it develop like an André 3000 lyric. It’s 90s nostalgia overload with its bubbly pastel colour aesthetic, but with some modern touches: a flash that automatically adjusts shutter speed and a selfie mode. Good for young folks and folks who remember being young.
The next generation of major gaming consoles are here, just in time for us all to be begging for some video games for lockdown part II. They’ve both just dropped, modernizing graphics and gameplay engine. It might be a case of “if you’re reading this, it’s too late for your gift,” but if you sign up for the wait lists, make reservations and obsessively check the websites then you might luck out.
Playstation 5 costs $629, or $499 for the “digital edition.” Xbox Series X costs $599 and Series S costs $379. All Access pricing from $30-$40/month. EB Games (267 Yonge, 519 Bloor West and others), microsoft.com and bestbuy.ca
Whether or not you have the new Playstation (or Xbox One, PC or Stadia), this is one of the big games we have our eye on. It’s made by Ubisoft Toronto, so you’re supporting local, but it’s set in a dystopian London, UK. What sets it apart is the “play as anyone” gameplay that makes its world completely wide open. There’s no one goal to hit or outcome to see, so you could play for as long as we’re stuck at home.
While the other consoles are prizing new and shiny, Nintendo is spending this holiday season leaning hard on their most famous character: a mustachioed 35-year-old plumber named Mario. In addition to classic Mario re-releases, the new Mario Kart is strange and innovative. You build tracks within your real house and then play them with a physical kart and on your Switch. Optional gift extra: a pile of old banana peels.
This is the perfect gift for someone you want to catch up with over Zoom but whose features you actually want to see instead of a dim silhouette. Ring lights might have once been a product for online broadcasters, but now we’re all projecting ourselves on screens. This lightweight one has a beautiful 12 inch LED soft light, plus there’s a phone mount, a collapsible stand and a carrying case.
You’ve probably stepped up your home coffee game over the last eight months. Introduce some tech into it with this smart mug, which has become one of the most strangely aspirational items during the pandemic. The ceramic mug connects to your phone app, lets you choose your perfect temperature and even notifies you when it gets there. Too much for a mug? Measure it in the Starbucks lattes you didn’t buy.
Unlike acoustic guitar, learning to play synthesizer isn’t so straightforward. But Moog has you covered with this kit, which is its most affordable ever and also the closest thing to a beginner’s instrument. First used in workshops at 2014’s Moogfest, it’s designed primarily for education. Learn about analog synth circuits, sampling, programming and all the other perplexing knob twisting you see happening onstage.
If you have a loved one who always loses their wallet, get them this sleek little leather wallet. It has the Tile app built right into it, hidden behind a fold so thieves can’t see it. Activate it once a year and it’ll keep track of your wallet’s location from your phone.
Richard has covered Toronto’s music scene for over a decade. He was once called a “mush-brained millennial blogger” by a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and “actually a pretty good guy” by a Juno-nominated director.