This algae balls powered robotic rover generates energy using photosynthesis

MARS is an autonomous, photosynthetically powered rover that uses marimo’s photosynthesis process to accrue solar energy and roam riverbeds and lake bottoms and gather scientific information.

Rovers gather some of the most insightful and fundamental scientific information regarding challenging environments. Unlike humans, rovers can access hard-to-reach environments even under the most dangerous and unlivable conditions. Whether they’re traversing the rocky landscape of Mars or leading scientists to the dark depths of the sea, rovers bring us one step closer to understanding our planet and all that surrounds it.

Designer: The University of the West of England

Today, a team of scientists from the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, UK have implemented the use of a marimo, a type of rare, lake- and river-dwelling algae growth that grow into large, velvety balls, in aquatic rovers to uncover information on some of our planet’s bodies of water. Recently published in the Journal of Biological Engineering, the “Marimo Actuated Rover Systems,” or MARS for short is described as “an autonomous, low-cost, lightweight, compact size, photosynthetically powered rover.”

Found just beneath the lake’s or river’s surface, marimo grows by energy harnessed from the faint sunlight that skims the water’s surface and produces oxygen in the process. Outfitted with a highly technical globular rover suit, the MARS rovers use solar energy to autonomously roam the riverbeds and lake bottoms, gathering information on the water’s conditions like temperature and oxygen.

The team at UWE produced a 3D-printed exoskeleton about the size of a baseball to encase the balls of marimo and develop their rover suit. Using this exoskeleton, the oxygen generated from the solar energy gets trapped inside and allows MARS to zigzag and propel forward on the riverbed or lake bottom. The team at UWE discovered a way to harness the energy produced during photosynthesis and turn it into a type of fuel that moves MARS forward. The more oxygen trapped inside the exoskeleton, the heavier MARS becomes. This aspect of photosynthesis allows the autonomous rover to avoid larger obstacles that come in its path by exhaling oxygen to become buoyant and then holding onto oxygen to keep moving.

Currently, in its early phases, the rover can potentially be outfitted with low-power sensors that will track water conditions like pH, pollution, turbidity, and salinity levels. These low-power sensors can even be activated by the energy harnessed from the rover’s movement. While marimo is unique to lakes and rivers, the researchers at the UWE find that the template of MARS can be applied to oceanic algae, like seaweed, allowing rovers to roam the ocean’s mysterious depths.

The post This algae balls powered robotic rover generates energy using photosynthesis first appeared on Yanko Design.

This futuristic ferry terminal looks like an alien’s gantry and will begin construction in November 2022!

The Chongqing Cuntan International Cruise Centre is an upcoming futuristic ferry terminal designed by MAD Architects for Chongqing near the Yangtze River.

Terminals and transportation centers are escapist by design, bringing us either to some bygone era or somewhere in the distant future. Take the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy Airport or the recently renovated King’s Cross Train Station—the former brings us back to the 60s, while the latter takes us to some crossover between the 1920s and the 21st century.

Still, early on in its conceptualization phase, the Chongqing Cuntan International Cruise Centre is an upcoming project from MAD Architects, that transforms an existing cargo terminal in Chongqing, China into a futuristic ferry terminal.

Created in collaboration with the China Academy of Building Research, the Chongqing Cuntan International Cruise Centre will be located on a 710,500 square-foot site in Chongqing, China near the Yangtze River. The completed structure will comprise six interconnected buildings that will rise above the ground, measuring 430 meters in length.

Designed with a surrealist edge, the Chongqing Cuntan International Cruise Centre will reflect the setting sun and golden hour with a curving orange aluminum exterior. Inside the ferry terminal, guests can enjoy plenty of retail spaces, restaurants, larger rooms described as “urban halls,” which will each be brightened with natural sunlight that pours in through numerous skylights and bounces off lush greenery throughout the terminal.

While construction is due to start in November 2022, the project will not reach completion until 2027. As the architects at MAD note, “We have designed the elevated buildings as if they were a futuristic, free-walking city, seemingly arriving here from elsewhere, and perhaps traveling elsewhere once again someday.

“Chongqing has mountains and waters. However, the Yangtze River is more than just a natural landscape in Chongqing. Because of human activities such as shipping traffic and industrial transport, this mountain city is also full of energy and movement.

“We want to transform this energy in Chongqing from traces of industry into energy that stimulates the imagination. People can feel the kinetic energy of the city here, but also imagine the public spaces of the future.”

Designer: MAD Architects

The post This futuristic ferry terminal looks like an alien’s gantry and will begin construction in November 2022! first appeared on Yanko Design.

Tech that can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Regardless of how 2021 went for you, 2022 is another chance for all of us to make the new year better than those that came before it. We set New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but it’s no wonder that so many people fail after just a few weeks – old habits die hard. Just as it’s important to have a supportive group of people cheering you on during those particularly hard days, it’s also important to have tools that make it easier to achieve your goals. Whether you’re trying to get healthy, be more organized, or read more, there are tech tools that can make your journey a bit easier (and maybe even more enjoyable).

Fitness tracker

Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness tracker
Fitbit

A fitness tracker can help kickstart your exercise journey by passively monitoring your wins and showing you daily data about your steps, sleep patterns and more. Fitbit’s Inspire 2 is an all-around good option, not only because it’s fairly affordable at $100, but because it does pretty much everything a beginner would need a fitness tracker to do. It tracks daily steps, calories, heart rate, sleep and more, and it comes with 20 goal-based exercises that you can manually track or let the device’s automatic SmartTrack feature monitor for you. It also has 10-day battery life, so you rarely have to take it off to charge it. And with built-in Tile functionality, you’ll be able to more easily find the device if you do misplace it.

Smartwatch

Apple Watch SE
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

If you’d rather invest in an all-purpose wearable that also has serious fitness chops, the Apple Watch SE is a good choice. While it doesn’t include some of the bells and whistles that the Series 7 does, it still fferes the same core experience as any Apple Watch. It tracks all-day activity and heart rate, and watchOS finally does basic sleep tracking, too. In addition to built-in GPS for outdoor workouts, it supports dozens of trackable exercises along with fall detection and high and low heart rate notifications. The Apple Watch also excels over basic fitness trackers when it comes to table-stakes smartwatch features: You’ll be able to send and receive text messages from the device, as well as control music playback, smart home devices and more.

Workout classes

Smiling sportswoman crouching, taking a break, and using phone after running in nature.
millann via Getty Images

If running isn’t your thing, or it’s just inconvenient to do it where you live, finding exercise classes that you enjoy can make working out a habit you’re more likely to stick with for the long haul. You may prefer to do this through your local gym — that push to get out of the house and into a dedicated exercise space can be really effective for some — but there are plenty of online fitness classes as well that you can participate in from the comfort of your living room. I’ve tried my fair share of these services and my favorite has been Peloton. No, you don’t need one of the company’s expensive bikes or treadmills to take advantage of their classes. Access to the app-only version of the subscription costs $13 per month and it lets you take HIIT, strength, yoga and even outdoor running classes, many of which require little to no equipment at all.

If you can’t afford another monthly subscription fee, the internet has tons of free exercise resources — you just have to work a little harder to find the ones you jive with most. I highly recommend Fitness Blender, a free website where you can watch hundreds of workout videos and even set a schedule for yourself, assigning videos to specific days of the week. I like the quality and consistency of their videos, but you may connect more to YouTube workout videos if they’re taught by instructors you like; Heather Robertson and Move with Nicole are two personal favorites.

Habit tracker

Forest app
Forest

At least in the beginning, keeping track of new habits you’re trying to build can help you stick to them. While you can get deep into this subject if you wander down the bullet-journal rabbit hole, a habit-tracking app is probably the easier option. Done and Strides are two iOS options that let you log when you’ve completed a new habit you’re trying to build or when you avoided a bad habit that you’re trying to break. You can get pretty granular, customizing how often you want to do a task, setting reminders to log, reviewing stats and more. However, both apps have paid tiers to which you’ll be asked to subscribe after you create a few trackable habits.

If you’d rather avoid yet another subscription, consider an app like Streaks, which can be all yours for a one-time fee of $5. As for Android, Grow is a free app that takes a similar approach to habit tracking that Forest takes with time management. Plant a virtual tree for each new habit tracked and watch it grow every time you log a completion. There’s also Habitica, which turns habit tracking to an 8-bit RPG game in which your custom avatar levels up every time you log a task.

To-do and note-taking apps

Things 3
Things 3

The new year provides an opportunity to get back on track, and one way to do that is by finding organizational tools that work for you — and making sure those tools are as uncomplicated as possible. The worst thing that could happen is that your to-do list or note-taking system ends up being so cumbersome that you avoid using it. Keeping all of your necessary tasks in your head may work on easy days, but it can quickly get overwhelming when you have a million things to handle in both your personal and professional life. I’m a fan of Things for iOS and macOS because it’s detailed enough for big work projects, but simple enough for casual personal tasks. I also love the Today view, which shows me everything across all of my projects that requires immediate attention.

However, you’ll spend $80 to get Things for iOS, iPadOS and macOS — and it’s only available for Apple devices. Microsoft’s To Do is an alternative that, while less involved than Things 3, is free and works on almost every platform including iOS, Android and Windows, among others. You can keep it simple and just have a task list and a grocery list, or you can go deeper and add due dates, sub-tasks and even share lists with family members. And if you don’t want to bother with an extraneous app, you can always opt for the reminders app that (most likely) came preinstalled on your phone. That would be Reminders for iOS users and Google Keep for Android users.

Google Keep also doubles as a note-taking app, which will be a better solution if you’ve been constantly jotting down ideas for new projects on Post-It notes or scraps of paper that you eventually lose. Apple Notes is the default option for this on iOS devices, and there are plenty of other note-taking apps out there as well. I’m partial to Evernote simply because it’s become my digital file box of sorts. I take notes in it almost every day, but tons of things like online order receipts, messages from my doctor’s office and e-signed contracts all come to me through my email and eventually get saved and tagged in Evernote so I can easily find them in the future.

Password manager

1Password password manager app.
1Password

If you’re looking to up your organization game in the new year, a password manager is a great place to start. I’m partial to 1Password, but there are plenty of other options including LastPass (which has a free version), Bitwarden and Dashlane. After saving all of your passwords for various accounts, you only need to remember one (hence the name) to log in to your 1Password account and access all of the others. The service has browser extensions Chrome, Edge and others that will let you seamlessly log in with the proper credentials with just a few clicks, and 1Password has apps for most platforms including iOS and Android, so you can use it on all of your devices.

I also appreciate the Password Generator feature, which helps you create a new, secure password whenever one of yours has expired. LassPass has this too, and Dashlane even has a free tool that anyone can use to make more secure passwords. Not only does this take the onus of coming up with a strong key off your shoulders, but it also makes it easy to override old credentials with new ones.

Travel tech organizer

Bellroy Desk Pouch
Bellroy

One of the consequences of the past two is the dual-office life. Many of us now work both from home and from an office, and the last thing you want to do when you arrive in either place is rummage around your backpack only to realize that you’ve left your mouse, charging cable or dongle at your other desk.

An organizer bag can prevent this before it happens – we’re partial to BagSmart tech organizers thanks to their utilitarian, water-repellent designs and their multiple pockets and dividers. They also come in different sizes, so you can pick the best one for your commuter bag. If you want something a bit more elevated, Bellroy’s Desk Pouch is a good option. It’s pricier but for the money you get a more elegant design, with a higher-quality material (recycled nylon, weave or ripstop, depending on the color you choose) and a structured base that keeps the bag upright on your desk.

Computer docking station

CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock
CalDigit

It’s all too easy for your work-from-home setup to get really messy really quickly. When you’re going through your busiest times at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is cable management, but dedicating a bit more effort into tidying up your workspace can make your day to day more efficient and more enjoyable.

We recommend some sort of docking station to keep your laptop, monitors, accessories and the like in check. A couple good options are CalDigit’s TS3 Plus and Plugable’s Universal Docking Station. The former has a compact, rectangular design with a total of 16 different ports on it, including a Gigabit Ethernet jack, five USB-A connections, two Thunderbolt 3 sockets and analog audio in/out ports. The latter stands up vertically on your desk and has 13 connectors, including HDMI and DVI ports, six USB-A connections and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. That DVI port may be a deciding factor for you depending on which monitor you have, and Plugable’s device comes with both DVI to HDMI and DVI to VGA adapters.

While both of those options are stationary, there are plenty of adapters out there that can give you similar organization while on the go, albeit in a less elegant package. Anker’s USB-C hub is an affordable solution that includes an HDMI port, microSD and SD card readers, two USB-C connections and two USB-A ports. It also supports 100W power pass-through, so you can charge your laptop through the hub while using it.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot Smart WiFi
Instant Pot / Best Buy

Eating healthier — or even just avoiding takeout multiple times a week — can be challenging in part because it usually means cooking more at home. Not only is that hard to do when you’re starting from zero, but it’s especially tough because it takes more time than ordering in from your phone. But tools like an Instant Pot can make the process easier because it cuts your active cooking time down drastically. You can find a plethora of recipes in which you simply throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot, set it and forget it until it’s time to eat.

We recommend the Instant Pot Duo for beginners because it’s relatively affordable and combines seven different cooking methods into one appliance, including rice cooking, steaming, pressure cooking, slow cooking and more. If you’re primarily cooking for yourself and a partner, the three-quart model will serve you just fine, but we recommend the six-quart model if you’re routinely cooking for four or more. If the thought of cooking at home actually excites you rather than fills you with anxiety, consider the Instant Pot Ultra, which includes a few extra modes like cake maker and egg cooker, or the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which includes an air-fry lid.

Recipe organization

A woman prepares a healthy meal in her kitchen, using a scale to portion the ingredients.
RichLegg via Getty Images

One of the best things about cooking at home is finding recipes that you love so much that you want to make over and over again. You’ll want to keep those recipes safe and readily available so you can refer to them when you need a quick weeknight meal or a dish to bring to your next family reunion. Recipe cards are a great way to do this, and you’ll build up your rolodex of delicious meals over time. If you’d rather have a cookbook of sorts that you fill in yourself over time, opt for a recipe book instead.

If you’d rather keep your arsenal of recipes accessible at any time, anywhere from your phone, Paprika’s recipe management app is the best solution I’ve tried. The $5 app basically acts as your digital recipe box, allowing you to enter recipes of your own as well as download them from the internet. You know those hundreds of words that precede online recipes, in which the author divulges their entire life story before telling you their secret to making deliciously moist cornbread? Paprika strips all of those unnecessary bits out and only saves the ingredient list and the instructions. You can also make grocery lists and keep track of pantry staples in the app, so don’t be surprised if it quickly becomes one of your most-used kitchen tools.

Reading app

Scribd
Scribd

Don’t take your habit of doom-scrolling on Twitter for hours every day into the new year. You could instead use the internet to find other things to read and the free Libby app is a good place to start. Powered by Overdrive, it connects you with your local library’s digital collection, allowing you to borrow and download all kinds of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, graphic novels and more. Libby also has a tag system that you can use to “save” titles for later without actually putting a hold on them (although you can do that in the app, too). If you find a bunch of audiobooks you eventually want to get to, you can give them all a “TBR” tag so you can quickly find them and borrow one when you need new reading/listening material.

As someone who uses Libby on a regular basis, I love how easy it is to borrow from my local library without leaving my home. However, there have been numerous times in which my library doesn’t have a title I’m looking for. If that happens to you often, you may want to consider a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd, both of which give you unlimited access to a wide library of e-books for $10 per month. And for audiobook lovers, your options are Amazon’s Audible or Libro.fm, the latter of which lets you choose the local bookstore you want to support with your purchases.

E-reader

Amazon's latest Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, which was released at the end of October 2021.
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

E-readers are still around because so many people recognize how much better it can be to read e-books on a dedicated device — especially one with an e-paper display. Sure, you could read on your smartphone or a tablet, but staring at those screens all day long can be tiring for your eyes. An e-reader like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo’s Clara HD is a better choice not only for its more comfortable display, but also because it focuses your attention on reading. (If you’ve ever picked up your smartphone intending to finish a chapter only to be distracted by email or Twitter, you know how crucial this is.)

The new Kindle Paperwhite has a 6.8-inch display with adjustable warm lights, 20 percent faster page turns and weeks of battery life. The Clara HD is similar, with a 6-inch E-Ink display, adjustable brightness and color temperature, along with weeks of battery life. If you already get most of your e-books through Amazon, the Paperwhite is the best option. You can listen to Audible audiobooks, too, if you connect a pair of wireless earbuds to the e-reader. Kobo’s device primarily gets books via the Kobo Store, but it also supports various file types like EPUB, PDF and MOBI. Plus, it has on-device integration with Overdrive, allowing you to borrow library books directly from the e-reader.

Tech that can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Regardless of how 2021 went for you, 2022 is another chance for all of us to make the new year better than those that came before it. We set New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but it’s no wonder that so many people fail after just a few weeks – old habits die hard. Just as it’s important to have a supportive group of people cheering you on during those particularly hard days, it’s also important to have tools that make it easier to achieve your goals. Whether you’re trying to get healthy, be more organized, or read more, there are tech tools that can make your journey a bit easier (and maybe even more enjoyable).

Fitness tracker

Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness tracker
Fitbit

A fitness tracker can help kickstart your exercise journey by passively monitoring your wins and showing you daily data about your steps, sleep patterns and more. Fitbit’s Inspire 2 is an all-around good option, not only because it’s fairly affordable at $100, but because it does pretty much everything a beginner would need a fitness tracker to do. It tracks daily steps, calories, heart rate, sleep and more, and it comes with 20 goal-based exercises that you can manually track or let the device’s automatic SmartTrack feature monitor for you. It also has 10-day battery life, so you rarely have to take it off to charge it. And with built-in Tile functionality, you’ll be able to more easily find the device if you do misplace it.

Smartwatch

Apple Watch SE
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

If you’d rather invest in an all-purpose wearable that also has serious fitness chops, the Apple Watch SE is a good choice. While it doesn’t include some of the bells and whistles that the Series 7 does, it still fferes the same core experience as any Apple Watch. It tracks all-day activity and heart rate, and watchOS finally does basic sleep tracking, too. In addition to built-in GPS for outdoor workouts, it supports dozens of trackable exercises along with fall detection and high and low heart rate notifications. The Apple Watch also excels over basic fitness trackers when it comes to table-stakes smartwatch features: You’ll be able to send and receive text messages from the device, as well as control music playback, smart home devices and more.

Workout classes

Smiling sportswoman crouching, taking a break, and using phone after running in nature.
millann via Getty Images

If running isn’t your thing, or it’s just inconvenient to do it where you live, finding exercise classes that you enjoy can make working out a habit you’re more likely to stick with for the long haul. You may prefer to do this through your local gym — that push to get out of the house and into a dedicated exercise space can be really effective for some — but there are plenty of online fitness classes as well that you can participate in from the comfort of your living room. I’ve tried my fair share of these services and my favorite has been Peloton. No, you don’t need one of the company’s expensive bikes or treadmills to take advantage of their classes. Access to the app-only version of the subscription costs $13 per month and it lets you take HIIT, strength, yoga and even outdoor running classes, many of which require little to no equipment at all.

If you can’t afford another monthly subscription fee, the internet has tons of free exercise resources — you just have to work a little harder to find the ones you jive with most. I highly recommend Fitness Blender, a free website where you can watch hundreds of workout videos and even set a schedule for yourself, assigning videos to specific days of the week. I like the quality and consistency of their videos, but you may connect more to YouTube workout videos if they’re taught by instructors you like; Heather Robertson and Move with Nicole are two personal favorites.

Habit tracker

Forest app
Forest

At least in the beginning, keeping track of new habits you’re trying to build can help you stick to them. While you can get deep into this subject if you wander down the bullet-journal rabbit hole, a habit-tracking app is probably the easier option. Done and Strides are two iOS options that let you log when you’ve completed a new habit you’re trying to build or when you avoided a bad habit that you’re trying to break. You can get pretty granular, customizing how often you want to do a task, setting reminders to log, reviewing stats and more. However, both apps have paid tiers to which you’ll be asked to subscribe after you create a few trackable habits.

If you’d rather avoid yet another subscription, consider an app like Streaks, which can be all yours for a one-time fee of $5. As for Android, Grow is a free app that takes a similar approach to habit tracking that Forest takes with time management. Plant a virtual tree for each new habit tracked and watch it grow every time you log a completion. There’s also Habitica, which turns habit tracking to an 8-bit RPG game in which your custom avatar levels up every time you log a task.

To-do and note-taking apps

Things 3
Things 3

The new year provides an opportunity to get back on track, and one way to do that is by finding organizational tools that work for you — and making sure those tools are as uncomplicated as possible. The worst thing that could happen is that your to-do list or note-taking system ends up being so cumbersome that you avoid using it. Keeping all of your necessary tasks in your head may work on easy days, but it can quickly get overwhelming when you have a million things to handle in both your personal and professional life. I’m a fan of Things for iOS and macOS because it’s detailed enough for big work projects, but simple enough for casual personal tasks. I also love the Today view, which shows me everything across all of my projects that requires immediate attention.

However, you’ll spend $80 to get Things for iOS, iPadOS and macOS — and it’s only available for Apple devices. Microsoft’s To Do is an alternative that, while less involved than Things 3, is free and works on almost every platform including iOS, Android and Windows, among others. You can keep it simple and just have a task list and a grocery list, or you can go deeper and add due dates, sub-tasks and even share lists with family members. And if you don’t want to bother with an extraneous app, you can always opt for the reminders app that (most likely) came preinstalled on your phone. That would be Reminders for iOS users and Google Keep for Android users.

Google Keep also doubles as a note-taking app, which will be a better solution if you’ve been constantly jotting down ideas for new projects on Post-It notes or scraps of paper that you eventually lose. Apple Notes is the default option for this on iOS devices, and there are plenty of other note-taking apps out there as well. I’m partial to Evernote simply because it’s become my digital file box of sorts. I take notes in it almost every day, but tons of things like online order receipts, messages from my doctor’s office and e-signed contracts all come to me through my email and eventually get saved and tagged in Evernote so I can easily find them in the future.

Password manager

1Password password manager app.
1Password

If you’re looking to up your organization game in the new year, a password manager is a great place to start. I’m partial to 1Password, but there are plenty of other options including LastPass (which has a free version), Bitwarden and Dashlane. After saving all of your passwords for various accounts, you only need to remember one (hence the name) to log in to your 1Password account and access all of the others. The service has browser extensions Chrome, Edge and others that will let you seamlessly log in with the proper credentials with just a few clicks, and 1Password has apps for most platforms including iOS and Android, so you can use it on all of your devices.

I also appreciate the Password Generator feature, which helps you create a new, secure password whenever one of yours has expired. LassPass has this too, and Dashlane even has a free tool that anyone can use to make more secure passwords. Not only does this take the onus of coming up with a strong key off your shoulders, but it also makes it easy to override old credentials with new ones.

Travel tech organizer

Bellroy Desk Pouch
Bellroy

One of the consequences of the past two is the dual-office life. Many of us now work both from home and from an office, and the last thing you want to do when you arrive in either place is rummage around your backpack only to realize that you’ve left your mouse, charging cable or dongle at your other desk.

An organizer bag can prevent this before it happens – we’re partial to BagSmart tech organizers thanks to their utilitarian, water-repellent designs and their multiple pockets and dividers. They also come in different sizes, so you can pick the best one for your commuter bag. If you want something a bit more elevated, Bellroy’s Desk Pouch is a good option. It’s pricier but for the money you get a more elegant design, with a higher-quality material (recycled nylon, weave or ripstop, depending on the color you choose) and a structured base that keeps the bag upright on your desk.

Computer docking station

CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock
CalDigit

It’s all too easy for your work-from-home setup to get really messy really quickly. When you’re going through your busiest times at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is cable management, but dedicating a bit more effort into tidying up your workspace can make your day to day more efficient and more enjoyable.

We recommend some sort of docking station to keep your laptop, monitors, accessories and the like in check. A couple good options are CalDigit’s TS3 Plus and Plugable’s Universal Docking Station. The former has a compact, rectangular design with a total of 16 different ports on it, including a Gigabit Ethernet jack, five USB-A connections, two Thunderbolt 3 sockets and analog audio in/out ports. The latter stands up vertically on your desk and has 13 connectors, including HDMI and DVI ports, six USB-A connections and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. That DVI port may be a deciding factor for you depending on which monitor you have, and Plugable’s device comes with both DVI to HDMI and DVI to VGA adapters.

While both of those options are stationary, there are plenty of adapters out there that can give you similar organization while on the go, albeit in a less elegant package. Anker’s USB-C hub is an affordable solution that includes an HDMI port, microSD and SD card readers, two USB-C connections and two USB-A ports. It also supports 100W power pass-through, so you can charge your laptop through the hub while using it.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot Smart WiFi
Instant Pot / Best Buy

Eating healthier — or even just avoiding takeout multiple times a week — can be challenging in part because it usually means cooking more at home. Not only is that hard to do when you’re starting from zero, but it’s especially tough because it takes more time than ordering in from your phone. But tools like an Instant Pot can make the process easier because it cuts your active cooking time down drastically. You can find a plethora of recipes in which you simply throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot, set it and forget it until it’s time to eat.

We recommend the Instant Pot Duo for beginners because it’s relatively affordable and combines seven different cooking methods into one appliance, including rice cooking, steaming, pressure cooking, slow cooking and more. If you’re primarily cooking for yourself and a partner, the three-quart model will serve you just fine, but we recommend the six-quart model if you’re routinely cooking for four or more. If the thought of cooking at home actually excites you rather than fills you with anxiety, consider the Instant Pot Ultra, which includes a few extra modes like cake maker and egg cooker, or the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which includes an air-fry lid.

Recipe organization

A woman prepares a healthy meal in her kitchen, using a scale to portion the ingredients.
RichLegg via Getty Images

One of the best things about cooking at home is finding recipes that you love so much that you want to make over and over again. You’ll want to keep those recipes safe and readily available so you can refer to them when you need a quick weeknight meal or a dish to bring to your next family reunion. Recipe cards are a great way to do this, and you’ll build up your rolodex of delicious meals over time. If you’d rather have a cookbook of sorts that you fill in yourself over time, opt for a recipe book instead.

If you’d rather keep your arsenal of recipes accessible at any time, anywhere from your phone, Paprika’s recipe management app is the best solution I’ve tried. The $5 app basically acts as your digital recipe box, allowing you to enter recipes of your own as well as download them from the internet. You know those hundreds of words that precede online recipes, in which the author divulges their entire life story before telling you their secret to making deliciously moist cornbread? Paprika strips all of those unnecessary bits out and only saves the ingredient list and the instructions. You can also make grocery lists and keep track of pantry staples in the app, so don’t be surprised if it quickly becomes one of your most-used kitchen tools.

Reading app

Scribd
Scribd

Don’t take your habit of doom-scrolling on Twitter for hours every day into the new year. You could instead use the internet to find other things to read and the free Libby app is a good place to start. Powered by Overdrive, it connects you with your local library’s digital collection, allowing you to borrow and download all kinds of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, graphic novels and more. Libby also has a tag system that you can use to “save” titles for later without actually putting a hold on them (although you can do that in the app, too). If you find a bunch of audiobooks you eventually want to get to, you can give them all a “TBR” tag so you can quickly find them and borrow one when you need new reading/listening material.

As someone who uses Libby on a regular basis, I love how easy it is to borrow from my local library without leaving my home. However, there have been numerous times in which my library doesn’t have a title I’m looking for. If that happens to you often, you may want to consider a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd, both of which give you unlimited access to a wide library of e-books for $10 per month. And for audiobook lovers, your options are Amazon’s Audible or Libro.fm, the latter of which lets you choose the local bookstore you want to support with your purchases.

E-reader

Amazon's latest Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, which was released at the end of October 2021.
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

E-readers are still around because so many people recognize how much better it can be to read e-books on a dedicated device — especially one with an e-paper display. Sure, you could read on your smartphone or a tablet, but staring at those screens all day long can be tiring for your eyes. An e-reader like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo’s Clara HD is a better choice not only for its more comfortable display, but also because it focuses your attention on reading. (If you’ve ever picked up your smartphone intending to finish a chapter only to be distracted by email or Twitter, you know how crucial this is.)

The new Kindle Paperwhite has a 6.8-inch display with adjustable warm lights, 20 percent faster page turns and weeks of battery life. The Clara HD is similar, with a 6-inch E-Ink display, adjustable brightness and color temperature, along with weeks of battery life. If you already get most of your e-books through Amazon, the Paperwhite is the best option. You can listen to Audible audiobooks, too, if you connect a pair of wireless earbuds to the e-reader. Kobo’s device primarily gets books via the Kobo Store, but it also supports various file types like EPUB, PDF and MOBI. Plus, it has on-device integration with Overdrive, allowing you to borrow library books directly from the e-reader.

This bizarre face mask concept proposes using an air-curtain instead of a physical filter… and it just might work

Using air to cut off potentially virally infected air sounds a lot like fire fighting fire, but there just might be some truth to it all. Air curtains are undoubtedly effective at creating an invisible barrier that keeps cold air inside an air-conditioned room from mixing with the hot air outside a room. When correctly installed, an air curtain actually saves energy in the long run by providing an essentially open entrance that allows people to pass through but prevents outside air from mixing with inside air (and potentially putting a higher load on your ACs), and it essentially even prevents mosquitoes from passing through too. So if an air curtain can create a very effective air barrier with large spaces, why can’t that technology be scaled down to work on your face too?

What this conceptual face mask proposes isn’t too far-fetched, honestly. Scientists are actually researching the viability of using air curtains to effectively ‘deactivate’ the coronavirus. If successful, maybe that face mask you’re currently wearing goes the way of the dinosaurs, as everyone essentially begins wearing fans on their foreheads that push filtered air towards your face, and keep bad air out.

In this research paper, physicists Alexander S. Sakharov and Konstantin Zhukov even propose a similar head-worn air curtain that essentially cuts off external air flow for the wearer without the discomfort of a fabric or N95 mask pressed against their faces. At least for the aerosol-based transmission of the coronavirus, an air curtain can be reasonably effective at pushing away particles (both from outside as well as from the wearer) to prevent proximal viral transmission… all while still allowing the wearer to breathe air comfortably.

The Airable is, at least on paper, a rather slim AR-headset-shaped device with air vents on the forehead facing downwards, and a clear plastic visor to prevent the gust of wind from blowing directly in your eyes. One could easily imagine that the Airable has a built-in filter of its own, which ensures that the air curtain only blows pure air (another research paper debates the use of ionized air to kill viruses instantly). Sounds pretty great on paper, and I definitely hope a team of designers and engineers are building or prototyping such a device. Unless the folks at Dyson could come up with a solution, my only concern is the overwhelming noise most air curtains currently make.

Airable is a winner of the Red Dot Design Concept Award for the year 2021.

Designers: Kim Seulgee, Ko Sungchan, Lee Wonho, Park Hyein

The post This bizarre face mask concept proposes using an air-curtain instead of a physical filter… and it just might work first appeared on Yanko Design.

Virgil Abloh, CEO of Off-White, has passed away at the age of 41

Multidisciplinary celebrity designer, CEO of Off-White and the artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection, Virgil Abloh has passed away at the age of 41 after battling a rare form of cancer.

An architect by training, Abloh’s involvement with international fashion started with an internship at Fendi’s in 2009, alongside Kanye West. Following a year-long collaboration with the rapper, Abloh founded Off-White in 2012, and was also hired as the artistic director for menswear at Louis Vuitton.

In the announcement done via an Instagram post on Virgil’s account, the statement says, “For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma. He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.”

“Through it all, his work ethic, infinite curiosity, and optimism never wavered. Virgil was driven by his dedication to his craft and to his mission to open doors for others and create pathways for greater equality in art and design. He often said, “Everything I do is for the 17-year-old version of myself,” believing deeply in the power of art to inspire future generations.”

Rest In Peace.
Virgil Abloh
September 30, 1980 – November 28, 2021

Braun x Virgil Abloh

Earlier this year, Abloh partnered with Braun to mark 100 years since the founding of the German design giant, by helping redesign the 1965 Wandanlage, a hi-fi audio wall unit as well as the BC02 alarm clock (showcased below).

The product in question is the 1965 Wandanlage, a hi-fi audio wall unit that Abloh sought to update, turning it into ‘functional art’ that reflected Braun’s design values along with Abloh’s eclectic cultural and musical references from the past 100 years. In its 2021 edition, the new Wandanlage sports a beautiful chrome design that unites Braun’s love of the material (as seen in its 1960 SM3 shaver and 1961 T1 toaster) with Abloh’s hat tip to the glitz and the shimmer of chrome accents often associated with hip-hop culture through the later years.





About the collaboration, Virgil Abloh said, “I have always had a deep appreciation for Braun design. For the brand’s 100 years, I jumped at the opportunity to reimagine this iconic Braun product and challenge what we have come to expect from design. The “functional art” piece co-curated with Braun Design not only highlights the original function of the hi-fi wall unit that was the best audio of its time, but also the quality and durable materials that are built to last. As a creator, I continue to question how art is perceived in today’s culture. “Functional art” is a lasting legacy of the enduring power of good design that is simple, useful and built to last. In so doing, it advances the frames of design references beyond design ‘purists’ to broader audiences.” Abloh further described his inspiration and this collaborative journey in the video above, shot at Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Farnsworth house.

The post Virgil Abloh, CEO of Off-White, has passed away at the age of 41 first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best gear to give to the photographer in your life

If your favorite person has a love of video or photography, a camera may be the best gift they’ll ever get. Some may want to capture their adventures with an action camera, while others may desire a mirrorless camera for portraits, movies or artistic shots. The technology is better than ever as camera makers try to stay ahead of smartphones with faster shooting speeds, sharper video and incredible autofocus. We found the best models for budgets ranging from $400 to $2,500, along with top accessories to complement their existing gear.

GoPro Hero 10 Black

GoPro Hero9 Black / Hero10 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For the adventurer on your gift list, there’s no better action camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black. It bests the previous Hero 9 Black model in a number of key ways, thanks mainly to the faster GP2 processor. That helps it deliver improved image quality, with higher resolution at up to 5.3K/30fps instead of 5K as before. It also offers improved noise reduction, smoother stabilization, more faithful color reproduction and better handling.

Buy GoPro Hero 10 Black at Amazon - $499Buy Hero 9 Black at GoPro - $350

Sony Alpha A6100

Sony Alpha A6100 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Sony

Sony’s A6100 is a great gift idea for budding photographers, as it offers the best features of its APS-C mirrorless camera series at the best price. Chief among those is the incredibly reliable autofocus system with eye-detection and other AI tricks. Even with fast-moving action, the A6100 will nail focus for video or photos most of the time thanks to the extremely rapid tracking system. It also offers accurate colors, good low-light performance and a flip-up display that allows for selfies and vlogging, with sharp video capture at up to 4K. It’s also one of the best mirrorless camera deals around at $748, or $848 with a 16-50mm kit lens.

Buy Sony Alpha A6100 at B&H - $848

DJI Ronin SC gimbal

DJI Ronin-SC gimbal for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
DJI

A gimbal is a great gift idea for video shooters, helping them boost production value with smooth tracking, panning and other shots. If your loved one has a mirrorless camera, the best option is DJI’s Ronin-SC model. It weighs just 2.4 pounds, 41 percent lighter than DJI’s original Ronin-S — making it easier to use for longer periods. It can stabilize just about any type of video as well, thanks to the ActiveTrack 3.0 mode and AI that can lock onto and track human or other subjects.

Buy DJI Ronin SC at Amazon - $439

Panasonic GH5

Panasonic GH5 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If your gift recipient is into making YouTube videos, the Panasonic GH5 has been the vlogging camera of choice since it first came out . The 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor delivers pin-sharp 4K video downsampled from the full sensor at up to 60fps, with a 10-bit high-color option that makes editing easier afterwards. It also includes other necessities for vlogging like a flip-out display, in-body stabilization and dual high-speed card slots. With the arrival of the $1,700 GH5 II, the original GH5 is cheaper than it’s ever been at $1,300, giving your loved one a lot of camera for the money.

Buy Panasonic GH5 at Amazon - $1,300

Magnus VT-4000 Tripod

Magnus VT-4000 tripod for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Engadget

If your giftee is starting to get serious about video, the Magnus VT 4000 is the best budget tripod option out there. It’s lightweight at 8 pounds, but the anodized aluminum construction is strong enough to handle a mirrorless camera and accessories weighing up to 8.8 pounds. The lack of heft makes it practical for travel, while the fluid head allows for smooth tilts and pans. Other features include a middle spreader to keep things steady and legs that extend up to 64 inches so you can match the eyeline of your subjects.

Buy Magnus VT-4000 tripod at Amazon - $199

Canon EOS R6

Canon EOS R6 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Canon

For a serious camera gift that’s around $2,500, Canon’s 20-megapixel EOS R6 is the best hybrid model out there. It delivers up to 20 fps burst shooting speeds while the Dual Pixel AF nails focus on nearly every shot, whether in bright sunlight or dim lighting. It’s also a solid pick for video, letting you shoot 4K supersampled video at 60 fps with 10-bit log and HDR options for maximum editing flexibility — again, with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system that’s second to none. The caveat to that is overheating, which limits use for things like weddings and journalism.

Buy Canon EOS R6 at Amazon - $2,499

Joby GorillaPod 3K

Joby GorillaPod 3K for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Joby

Some of the most useful gifts out there for vloggers are Joby’s famous mini-tripods, and the best one for the money is the GorillaPod 3K. Attaching your camera using the secure clip-in mounting plate is dead simple, and you can ensure that everything is even with the built-in level. The flexible legs let you set your camera anywhere to shoot or even wrap it around a tree or other object. The most common usage is as a vlogging handle, as vloggers can bend the legs forward to fit themselves into the video and steady out their shooting.

Buy GorillaPod 3K at Amazon - $85

SanDisk Extreme Pro SD card

SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / SanDisk

Your favorite camera nerd can never have enough memory cards, but they can be a pretty pricey gift. SanDisk’s ExtremePro UHS-I SD cards are cheaper than UHS-II cards, but the 90 MB/s read/write speeds are fast enough for most types of photography and video. If your loved one needs that extra UHS-II speed, Lexar’s UHS-II SD 1667X (250MB/s) and 2000X (300MB/s) SD cards are solid picks.

Buy SanDisk Extreme Pro (128GB) at Amazon - $25Buy Lexar 1667X (128GB) at Amazon - $50Buy Lexar 2000X (128GB) at Amazon - $95

Rode VideoMic Go and Wireless Go

Rode VideoMic Go on-camera mic for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Rode

If the vlogger in your life doesn’t already have one, Rode’s wireless and shotgun microphones are solid, affordable gifts. The VideoMic Go is ideal for interviews and run-and-gun shooting, thanks to the crisp directional audio and relative ease of use. It comes with a shock mount to eliminate bumps or vibrations that could interfere with sound and doesn’t require a battery, unlike past Rode models. Meanwhile, Rode’s Wireless Go is one of the most popular wireless lavalier mics out there, functioning as both a microphone and wireless transceiver. It offers a reliable connection and good audio quality, or you can maximize clarity by connecting an external 3.5mm microphone like Rode’s $40 SmartLav+, the Sennheiser Pro Audio ME2 or others.

Buy Rode VideoMic Go at Amazon - $79Buy Wireless Mic Go at B&H - $199

Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel

Nanlite LitoLite TC for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Nanlite

A good light is an awesome tool in your favorite photographer or videographer’s arsenal, and a relatively affordable gift to boot. One of the best all-around models is the Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel. It weighs just 4.8 ounces, but offers dimmable lighting across a range of colors, with adjustments either on the fixture or via a smartphone app. It mounts on any wall or light stand via a magnet or quarter-inch threads, has cordless operation and a battery that runs for 1.5 hours at full power (charged via USB). The most interesting feature is special effects that range from a cop car’s flashing lights, flames, candlelights, a lightning storm and more.

Buy LitoLite mini LED panel at Amazon - $75

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Backpacks are life for photographers and video shooters, so they make great gifts — if you get the right one. Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack 20L is a good choice, thanks to the stylish weatherproof design, internal dividers for laptops, cameras, lenses and more, a wrap-around zipper and a protected laptop sleeve. It offers excellent build quality and Peak Design backs that up with a lifetime warranty.

Buy Peak Design Everyday Backpack at Amazon - $220

Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 17.2

Blackmagic Design - Davinci Resolve 17 app
Blackmagic Design

As someone who used to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC exclusively, I never thought I’d switch to another app. I did, though, and can’t recommend Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17.2 enough (either the free or $295 studio version). You get a lifetime of updates, so it’s far cheaper than Adobe’s subscription program that runs $630 per year. Resolve is slightly trickier to learn, but far more powerful than Premiere for key tasks like color grading and effects. Most importantly, I’ve found Resolve to be far, far more reliable than Premiere on a wide range of computers, which is easily the most important “feature” on an editing app.

Buy DaVinci Resolve 17 at B&H - $295

Smart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great gifts

Keeping your home clean, organized and secure can be a chore, and your loved ones likely feel the same way. Fortunately, there are gadgets that can help make it a little easier. We review smart speakers, robotic vacuums and Instant Pots all year long, and for the holiday season we’ve compiled a list of our recent favorites in the home tech space that will make excellent gifts. And your giftee doesn’t have to be tech savvy to use all of them either — plenty of our recommendations amount to baby steps into the smart home world for those who would rather start off slow.

Instant Pot Pro

Instant Pot Pro for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Instant Pot

We almost always recommend the multi-purpose Instant Pot in our holiday gift guides and this year is no exception. But instead of giving your loved one the regular model, why not level up? Designed for avid cook, the Instant Pot Pro brings several key upgrades over previous models. The inner pot has an extra thick bottom that lets you heat it on the stove, plus handles that make it easier to lift. It has 28 customizable programs for different foods, and there are five favorite buttons that you can assign to frequently cooked meals. It also has steam release reminder alerts with 5- and 10-minute pre-sets. It’s available in two different sizes, but we’d recommend the six-quart version for most families.

Buy Instant Pot Pro at Amazon - $130

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova Precision Cooker Nano for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sous vide cooking essentially means keeping foods in a temperature-controlled water bath, ensuring they’re done to perfection. This used to require expensive equipment, but sous vide cookers have become inexpensive over the past few years. One such device is the Anova Precision Cooker Nano, which can be found for around $100, and can be controlled through either an app or physical buttons. It’s one of the most affordable sous vide machines around, yet it delivers precise temperature controls. The app also comes with an assortment of helpful recipes to help get users started on their sous vide journey.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more, we also like Breville’s Joule for its sleek, minimalist design. It doesn’t have the physical controls that the Nano does, but it makes up for that with its compact form factor that’s a little easier to fit in a kitchen drawer. Either option will ensure medium-rare steak, juicy chicken breasts or just a perfectly soft-cooked egg.

Buy Precision Cooker Nano at Amazon - $130Buy Breville Joule at Amazon - $200

Anova Precision Oven

Anova Precision Oven for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Anova

If your loved one is a great cook with counter space to spare, consider getting them the Anova Precision Oven. It’s a luxury purchase, for sure, but it’s well worth the price for serious home cooks. This combination convection-steam oven can cook food in both wet and dry heat, letting you control temperature and humidity levels. What this means is that your special someone can make juicy roast chicken with crispy skin as well as crusty artisan-style bread all in one machine. Plus, it has WiFi and a companion app that lets cooks keep an eye on their food from anywhere.

Buy Precision Oven at Anova - $599

Google Nest Doorbell Battery

Nest Doorbell for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

Video doorbells are useful for seeing who’s at the front door from the comfort of your couch. One of our favorites is the Nest Hello (now called the Nest Doorbell Wired), which is why we were pleased when Nest came out with a new battery-operated version, the Nest Doorbell Battery. It’s a great gift for both homeowners and renters, as you don’t need to hardwire it. Battery life is anywhere from one to six months depending on how active it is (it’s shorter if you live on a busy street, for example). The Doorbell notifies them whenever there’s a person, animal or vehicle near the front door. It can also let them know when a package has been placed, which is great for pre-empting theft. In addition, it offers three hours of event video history for free, with the option to purchase more space through a Nest Aware subscription.

Buy Nest Doorbell Battery at Best Buy - $180

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)

Nest Hub (2nd gen) for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Nest

If you do get a Nest Doorbell for someone, you might want to consider gifting them a Nest Hub as well. The two are designed to work together: anytime someone rings the doorbell, the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the Nest Hub’s screen. Even without the doorbell, however, the smart display is a great device to have around the home — especially if your loved one already uses the Google Assistant. It works as a digital photo frame and they can use it to watch YouTube and Netflix. It can also make calls via Google Duo and offers recipe videos along with step-by-step cooking instructions. If the user so chooses, they can track their sleeping patterns when they place the device next to their bed.

Buy Nest Hub (2nd gen) at Best Buy - $100

Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For those who prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant, the Echo Show 8 is a great alternative to the Nest Hub. It also works as a digital photo frame and its 8-inch display is a good size for streaming shows from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu while prepping dinner. It can also be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. Since Amazon has a partnership with Allrecipes and Food Network Kitchen, users can find assorted recipes and instructional videos as well.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Mila Air purifier

Mila Air purifier for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Air purifiers are great gifts for anyone who has allergies, lives in a polluted area or just wants to breathe easier at home. And if you want to give someone a smarter air purifier, consider the Mila Air. It ships with one of seven pre-configured HEPA filters that can filter out particles and allergens like pollen and dust. It also has a ton of customization options: there’s a “Housekeeping Service” mode that goes full blast when no one’s in the room, a “Sleep Mode” that turns the lights off and reduces the fan speeds at night, plus a “White Noise” mode that mimics soothing sounds like waterfalls. The Mila also has a bevy of sensors that can tell you if there’s carbon monoxide in the air, or if the humidity is too high.

Buy Mila air purifier - $349

Blink indoor camera

Blink indoor security camera
Blink

Blink’s indoor camera offers the gift of peace of mind in a compact and affordable package. Your loved one will appreciate the fact that Blink is wireless and battery-powered; since they don’t have to place it near an electrical outlet, it can sit almost anywhere. They also won’t have to worry about recharging the camera since it can last up to two years on its two included AA batteries. Aside from just letting them monitor their home, it also features customizable motion alerts so they’ll only get alerted when they want to. Plus, there’s two-way audio so they can hear and speak to the person (or pet) on the other end.

Buy Blink Indoor at Amazon - $80

iRobot Roomba 694

iRobot Roomba 694 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Maybe you have someone in your life who could use a little help cleaning up after themselves. For that, we recommend getting them one of our favorite robot vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba 694. It can suck up dirt and debris from both hardwood and carpeted floors, with an edge-sweeping brush taking care of dusty corners. The companion app lets them control it remotely, or they can set up a cleaning schedule so the little robot can do its thing at a set time. It even automatically docks and recharges itself if it’s low on battery.

Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $275

August WiFi smart lock

August Smart WiFi smart lock 4th gen for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
August

Smart locks are a great way to add security and convenience to any home. We recommend August’s WiFi smart lock because it’s easy to use, and since it fits over an existing deadbolt, it’s great for both homeowners and renters. It lets your loved ones unlock the door completely hands-free, which is great if they have their arms full of groceries. They can set it so that it automatically locks once the door is closed, or after a set period of time. If someone’s at the door but they’re at the office or in the backyard, they can easily let them in with a single finger tap. Plus, they can grant access for specific friends or family members, which means they might never need to put the key under the doormat ever again.

Buy August WiFi smart lock at Amazon - $229

TP-Link Kasa smart plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug  / Smart Plug Mini for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

With a smart plug, any appliance can be part of a connected home for not a lot of money. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug is a particularly good one because it is both affordable and incredibly compact (and if you’re really short on space, there’s a mini version that’s even smaller). Together with its companion app, they can schedule a timer to turn on and off anything from Christmas lights to a coffee maker. It’s also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which lets them add voice control to any outlet.

Buy Kasa smart plug (4 pack) at Amazon - $30Buy Kasa mini smart plug (2 pack) at Amazon - $20

Eero 6 WiFi mesh router

Amazon eero wifi 6 router for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Amazon

With most of us having so many gadgets and smart home devices, perhaps the best thing you can give your loved one is the gift of better WiFi to keep things running smoothly. Amazon’s Eero routers will deliver just that. The latest models support WiFi 6, the latest and fastest WiFi standard, and will support 75-plus devices simultaneously. It also covers up to 1,500 square feet with WiFi speeds up to 900 Mbps, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever have to deal with dead spots or buffering again. The Eero 6 also comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that lets them connect compatible devices without having to purchase a separate device.

Buy Eero 6 router at Amazon - $129

Philips LED Smart Bulb starter kit

Philips Smart light starter kit for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Philips

Add some color to your loved one’s life with the Philips LED smart bulb starter kit, which comes with four multi-color bulbs plus a Hue Hub that connects them all together. The bulbs can fill the room with millions of different colors so they can choose from warm moody lighting for a cozy atmosphere or rainbows for parties. In the companion app, they can create timers and routines so that their lights gradually turn on in the morning or off in the evening. And it’s scalable: They can eventually have up to 50 lights connected to one Hue Hub, giving them the freedom to outfit their whole home with smart lights if they wish.

Buy Philips Hue starter kit at Amazon - $195

Get your daily design inspiration in the New Tab of your Browser with this Google Chrome Plugin!

Yanko Design’s articles can now be found on the News Veranda extension for Google Chrome. Consisting of dozens of other design + creative publications, the News Veranda extension gives you a quick bird’s eye overview of the creative world and the design industry, right in your blank new tab!

The extension turns your otherwise blank new-tab experience into a creative newspaper, offering you the latest industrial, graphic, architecture, UX, and transportation design articles along with creative editorials. Clicking on the thumbnail will redirect you to the relevant website, or you can even save articles to be read later. If you just want to perform google searches (as one does in a new tab), a search bar at the top of the News Veranda page lets you continue using it like you normally would.

The tab comes designed by Veranda Color, a website which lets you build, customize, and explore color palettes for your creative projects and inspirational moodboards.

Earlier this month, Yanko Design and News Veranda partnered to bring Industrial, Architecture, and Transportation design articles to the new tab’s mix. The extension is currently available on the Chrome Web Store for desktops and laptops, which means it works with Google Chrome, Brave, and even Microsoft Edge! Oh yes, and it has Dark Mode too!

Click here to visit the News Veranda extension page and add it to your Desktop/Laptop browser!

Click here to visit the News Veranda extension page and add it to your Desktop/Laptop browser!

The post Get your daily design inspiration in the New Tab of your Browser with this Google Chrome Plugin! first appeared on Yanko Design.

The books and movies we’re gifting this year

Having somehow made it through a second year of global pandemic and political unrest, give the loved ones on your holiday shopping list the greatest gift of all: an alternative to doom-scrolling. In Engadget’s 2021 Media Gift Guide you’ll find a diverse selection of books — fiction and nonfiction alike — as well a host of streaming content suggestions that will keep their recipients entertained through the holidays and beyond. If you’ve got a book, show or movie that you think would make the perfect present, tell us all about it in the comments below!

Fiction

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

NYT bestselling author, Rebecca Roanhorse — the literary force behind Star Wars: Resistance Reborn — has done it again. Her latest fantasy series, Between Earth and Sky, takes readers on an epic journey of trauma, healing, vengeance, and eventual redemption. The first book in the series, 2020’s Black Sun, weaves a masterfully engrossing — and markedly inclusive — tale that eschews the common Arthurian Legend retellings in favor of a unique fantasy world inspired by pre-Columbian America cultures. If you’ve got a fan of fantasy on your holiday shopping list, pick up Black Sun for them before the sequel, Fevered Star, drops next April.

Buy Black Sun at Amazon - $13

Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

The ending of Game of Thrones was nothing short of a slap in the face to fans. I mean, really, all that and Bran wins? GTFOH. If you’ve got a fan of George “Double R” Martin on your holiday shopping list, do them a favor and turn them on to Joe Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy. Set in a world in which the seeds of industrialization have just taken hold even as the age magic and mysticism stubbornly refuses to be uprooted, AoM tells a tale of mighty nations at war while the powerful elites who rule them vie for control over both their countries’ external fates and their courts’ internal politics. Packed with captivating characters, political intrigue, incredible reversals of fortune and stunning betrayals, Age of Madness is a grimdark masterpiece where everybody, for once, gets exactly what they deserve.

Buy Age of Madness trilogy at Amazon - $35

1414º by Paul Bradley Carr

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Whether we like it or not, this is Jeff Bezos’ world and the rest of us just live in it. Our current slate of 21st century techno-robber barons have achieved unfathomable wealth and unassailable power; but as Paul Bradley Carr’s latest novel, 1414º, illustrates, you can’t spend that money or wield that influence when you’re dead. If you’ve got a fan of high-tension whodunnits and techno-thrillers on your holiday shopping list, 1414º will be a surefire hit.

Buy 1414º at Amazon - $5

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Martha Wells can’t stop, won’t stop, dropping Murderbot hits. The reigning queen of hard sci-fi released Fugitive Telemetry — the sixth book in her Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Alex Award winning series — earlier this year and let me tell you from experience, it is a banger. Our self-aware SecUnit anti-hero is back in another standalone adventure, this time on the trail of a vicious murderer aboard Preservation (space) Station. If the sci-finatic on your holiday shopping lists enjoys space intrigue and robotic mysteries, you can’t go wrong with Fugitive Telemetry.

Buy Fugitive Telemetry at Amazon - $12

Undying Mercenaries series by B.V. Larson

The year is 2052 and Earth finds itself unwillingly annexed into a galactic empire it didn’t even know existed and is presented with a simple choice: provide our new alien overlords with a viable commercial product or face extermination. Thus, Earth’s mercenary legions are born. Armed with alien-made weaponry and a mysterious technology that allows soldiers to be reconstructed after being killed in battle — like reloading from a previous save point but far more gooey — Earth’s legions set out across the stars to fight the wars that the galaxy’s elder races are too self-important to fight themselves. Already 16 books deep, author B.V. Larson continues to lead the genre of military sci-fi from the front, so if you’ve got a fan of Starship Troopers, Aliens-style space marines, or Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow on your holiday shopping list, congrats! You can cross them off now.

Buy Undying Mercenaries series (16 books) at Amazon - $110

Nonfiction

Young girl reading a robotics book in a library. Okayama, Japan
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Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond by Ashley Jean Yeager

Far from a household name, astronomer Vera Rubin’s pioneering research helped convince the scientific community of the possibility that dark matter — the mysterious materials that make up a vast majority of the universe but cannot be observed — actually exists. In Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond (not to be confused with Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, a collection of Rubin’s own essays), author Ashley Jean Yeager takes readers on an inspiring biographical journey through the astronomer’s early year before examining the challenges she faced working in an often hostile, male-dominated field, and her eventual vindication and professional triumphs — looking at you Vera C. Rubin Observatory. If you’ve got a younger someone on your holiday shopping list who’s interested in pursuing STEM, this could well be the book that puts them on a path towards scientific greatness.

Buy Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter, and Beyond at Amazon - $15

N-4 Down by Mark Piesing

During the Zeppelin’s heyday, airships weren't just a means of the well-to-do to slowly get to distant destinations in comfort and luxury, they also offered a new means of (albeit pokey) exploration. N-4 Down by Mark Piesing takes readers on a thrilling, nail-biting adventure of the largest arctic rescue operation in history as famed Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, rushed to save the surviving crew of the airship Italia, which crashed during its attempt to land men at the North Pole in 1928. The history and aeronautical buffs on your holiday shopping list are going to absolutely love it.

Buy N-4 Down at Amazon - $15

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert

For the last 10,000 years, humanity has had an unprecedented and largely destructive impact on the environment around us. But as climate change increasingly wreaks its own havoc on us in return, humanity must now work to reverse or at least mitigate the harm that we have caused. In Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert examines just what we can do to make things right with Mother Earth and avoid a catastrophic climate crisis.

Buy Under a White Sky at Amazon - $13

The Quiet Zone by Stephen Kurczy

Books and other media for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Green Bank, West Virginia is, technologically speaking, stuck in the 1950s. And for good reason! This bucolic Appalachian town is home to the ultra-sensitive radio telescope at the Green Bank observatory, which necessitates that basically every device that can emit a radio signal — everything from iPads to microwaves — be heavily restricted. In The Quiet Zone, journalist and author Stephen Kurczy, embeds himself in Green Bank to give readers a firsthand look at what life could be like without our precious digital tech. The Quiet Zone is the perfect gift for the aspiring luddite on your holiday shopping list.

Buy The Quiet Zone at Amazon - $13

Streaming

Young woman watching tv on her laptop in bed at night.
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Given the myriad COVID-induced supply chain challenges that retailers are girding for this upcoming holiday season, finding physical copies of these titles could prove to be a bit of a challenge. So, perhaps consider gifting the book worms on your holiday shopping list the Kindle Paperwhite and a subscription to Amazon Kindle Unlimited? Virtually every one of the books listed above are available on the digital service along with millions of others as well as magazines and periodicals.

But there’s only so much one can read during those long winter nights so why not curl up on the couch with a nice cup of hot cocoa and watch some sterling examples of our new Golden Age of Television? If you’ve got a Trekkie on your holiday shopping list, you really can’t go wrong with a subscription to Paramount+. The $5 - $10 a month service unlocks a plethora of Star Trek shows including the Emmy award-winning Picard and the hilarious Lower Decks.

For the cinephile on your list, assuming you can’t get your hands on the upcoming Criterion 4K collections, an HBO Max subscription works just as well. For $10 a month, you’ll give the gift of a massive movie selection as well as popular weekly news and interview series like Pause with Sam Jay and This Week Tonight with John Oliver, not to mention incredible documentaries like Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.

Got someone with small children on your gift list? Throw them a bone with a Disney+ subscription. The service hosts nearly the entirety of Disney’s massive, decades-deep archives along with new family-friendly series and episodes arriving daily.