Top 10 Geeky Man Toys I Want For Christmas
Geeky Man Toys
Are many toys a real thing? I think I should probably explain the concept because I did worry when I wrote the title for this article that people might think I meant something rude. In fact, what I mean is simply toys for men (or women for that matter, but I'm a man so that's why I wrote it that way). I like to think of these 'geeky man toys' as being the next level up from gadgets. In fact, some of them can even be used to make your own gadgets! They are all things that you can play with, and which encourage a playful exploratory spirit, but they are definitely not for kids. If you are looking for a gift for the Geek in your life then I think that any of these would make a great choice.
Makerbot Replicator 2X
The Makerbot Replicator 2X is one of the best domestic desktop 3D printers on the market today. Makerbots have been at the top of the tree for domestic 3D printers since the very earliest days of the technology, leading the way in what many people think will be a 21st century industrial revolution.
If you don't know what 3D printing is, here is a very brief explanation: 3D printing is like regular printing, but instead of putting words on paper using ink cartridges, they print out three dimensional objects using spools of plastic (see the image below).
The Replicator 2X is the top of the range printer from Makerbot. It has a resolution of 100 microns, dual extrusion technology for multi-colour creations, and is even capable of printing mechanical parts such as working hinges.
My Very Own Drone
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are the flavour of the day for governments at the moment. But did you know that you can get your own?
A company called 3D robotics sells a choice of quadcopter or plane drones, both of which make the average remote control aeroplane look like something out of the dark ages.
These drones can record high definition video and are capable of carrying fairly heavy payloads. They also have some pretty advanced flight control systems. An award-winning auto-pilot system lets you pre-program a flight path on your computer using the included mission planning software, and then analyse flight telemetry afterwards. The copter also has some pretty cool pre-programmed features such as a return to launch site command, loiter and circle routines, acrobatic flying mode and more. The plane doesn't have quite so much agility, but it is ridiculously fast.
Robotis Stem Kit
If you want to learn how to make pretty much any kind of robot under the sun (which I personally think would be pretty damn cool) then this is the kit for you. Of course there are loads of robotics kits out there which give you everything you need to make a robot, with step by step instructions to help you. But this is the ultimate kit for both learning and creating.
The stem kit includes enough kit to build at least 7 different types of robot, and to experiment and create to your heart's content . The software that comes with it teaches you how to create each type of robot, but actually goes much further than this by teaching you the engineering principles behind what you are doing - making this a fairly comprehensive beginners course in robotics as well as a fun set of projects. It also comes with some great programming software that lets you write some advanced programs for your robots using a drag and drop editor, so you don't have to get involved in difficult coding (unless you want to!).
Lego Mindstorms Kit
Up until a few days ago I had no idea Lego had gotten so advanced! The Mindstorms kit lets you use Lego to build robots with a range of sensors, motors and other kit. You can control your creations using a remote control or using the free app from your phone, and there are a lots of 'missions' to complete, challenging you to create and program ever more complex robotic creations.
I think this is the ultimate father and son hobby - simple enough for kids but with enough advanced stuff for dad to have fun getting stuck in too. You can even add extra electronics to make it even more advanced, like Robot Bob in the video below, which incorporates a raspberry pi microcontroller board for voice and image recognition, to create a fairly advanced domestic robot!
An Ecosphere is a completely self-contained ecology. It contains a range of micro-ogranisms, small shrimp and algae in a sealed fish tank filled with filtered sea water. No feeding or cleaning is required - the organisms inside have been especially chosen so that they can survive in their own little world for many years without needing anything bit a little bit of light.
3D Circuit Board Printer
Printing three dimensional objects is pretty cool - but us Geeks love electronics and gadgets. Wouldn't it be great if we could print out our own electronics? Well soon this will be possible. I've cheated a little bit with this choice because the EX1 Circuit Board Printer isn't actually available to buy yet, but it has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter and should be available to the general public before too long.
This really takes 3D printing to the next level, and I really, really need one.
A 3D Printed Circuit Board
Sugru is play dough for men. It is a 'self-setting rubber' which you can mold by hand into any shape you want. You then let it dry out in the open air (no heating required!) and it sets into shape. It remains flexible when set, but will also snap back into shape if you bend it and then let go. It is an electrical insulator, which means that it can be used for electrical repairs (damaged cables, for example), and it is even waterproof and heat proof - meaning that there are about a gazillion and one different things that you can use this stuff for.
A 3D Scanner
3D printers look like the future, but 3D scanners really are the future. Forget about learning complex computer aided design tools or downloading design files from random strangers over the internet - now you can scan any (small) physical object and literally copy it. Combining a 3D printer and scanner means that you basically have a photocopier for three dimensional physical objects.
I am literally drooling as I write this.
Genetic Test Kit
For just $99 23andMe will send you a DNA testing kit that can give you a wealth of information relating to your ancestry and your health.
The kit is easy to use - you just take a saliva sample with the swab, and once your DNA has been analysed you get access to information about over 240 different genetic traits. This ranges from serious issues such as your pre-disposition to a range of life-threatening health conditions and how your body is likely to react to different drugs, to information about your genetic heritage (for example, how much Neanderthal DNA do you have?) and fun little facts such as your disposition to like certain types of food.
Goal Zero Yeti Solar Generator
You've probably seen solar powered chargers that you can plug your electronics into. There are loads of them about for phones and tablets and such like - but the 'Yeti' from Goal Zero takes this to the next level. This portable solar generator is capable of charging all of your gadgets from the same place, and can even be charged up from the solar panel in advance and then carried with you to charge your gadgets later on.