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Put These Tech Gifts Under the Tree

Fun new technology items can bring you closer to your loved ones

By Brette Sember
December 18, 2019

Staying in touch with the people you love can be challenging if they're far away. Anytime you are separated from a child, grandchild, sister or close friend, maintaining closeness can be hard, no matter how often you text, call, or video chat. Never fear, technology to the rescue!

Tech Gifts
Friendship Lamps (left), Pillow Talk (center) and Hug Shirts (right) are high-tech gadgets that keep loved ones connected  |  Credit: Filimin | Little Riot | Cute Circuit

There are tons of great new products you can use to stay especially close to those you love and all of them make great gifts — to give or to ask for yourself.

Give a Gift of Technology Love

Let your love light up. When you're looking for a sign that the person you miss is thinking about you, Friendship Lamps (starting at $85) or Friend Lamps (set of 2 for $150) can light up your darkness. To use them, buy a pair and connect yours through Wi-Fi,

Friendship Lamps
Friendship Lamps sync light and colors between two people, no matter the distance

creating a group ID. The other lamp gets connected to this group and you can then send a "message" to the other lamp, anywhere in the world. When you touch your lamp, the other person's lamp lights up or changes color, essentially saying that you are thinking about them. The glow of the lamp provides a warm, loving message that helps you feel connected.

Ian van der Meulen, 54, from Wellington, New Zealand is part of a group of four lamps. He and his wife have one and their three daughters (two in other countries) each have one. "We like the lamp because it is easy to use, fun and all the family knows we are thinking of them during certain parts of the day." The couple is teaching their one-year-old grandson to use the lamp as well.

Send love. LoveBox ($99.99) is an easy way to send a message to a grandchild who doesn't have a phone. Using your phone, you send a message and a drawing to the other person's Lovebox, a wooden box with a heart on the outside that spins when it receives a message. The recipient lifts the lid and reads your message on the screen inside.

Pillow Talk allows you to hear the other person's heartbeat through your pillow. You each wear a bracelet that sends your heartbeat through wifi to a speaker the other person keeps under their pillow.

Hey Bracelet
Hey Bracelets mimic human touch by producing a gentle squeeze  |  Credit: House of Haptics

Stay in touch with a bracelet. Hey Bracelet ($115 per pair) and Bond Touch ($98 per pair) bracelets allow you to send a touch to your loved one through bracelets you both wear. When you send your loved one a touch, their bracelet will vibrate and light up or will provide a gentle squeeze around the wrist. The bracelet stores all the touches it receives so you can replay them.

Feel the love. Pillow Talk allows you to hear the other person's heartbeat through your pillow.  You each wear a bracelet that sends your heartbeat through Wi-Fi to a speaker the other person keeps under their pillow. The heartbeat sound gently plays through your pillow while you're sleeping. A set of two wristbands and two speakers costs approximately $180 in U.S. dollars (it's a U.K. company).

Joanna Montgomery, founder and CEO of Pillow Talk, explains, "The aim of Pillow Talk is to let you ‘feel’ connected to someone you love when you can’t be with them. If you’re apart from your partner, child or grandchild, you are able to lie in bed and hear the sound of their heartbeat and feel a really personal connection with them. The product is quite popular with adults and their elderly parents in care homes, as it alleviates loneliness."

woman wearing Hug Shirt
The Hug Shirt allows provides an electronic embrace from a loved one far away  |  Credit: Cute Circuit

Send a hug. Ever wished you could get a hug from that person who's in another state? Now you can. When you each own a Hug Shirt, one person gives a hug to a person near them wearing the shirt. The shirt has sensors that record the strength, length and location of the touch as well as the warmth and heartbeat of the hugger. The data is then sent by Bluetooth to the other shirt owner far away. That person puts on their Hug Shirt and "feels" the hug. It also works if only the receiver has a shirt; you can program in on your phone how you want the hug to feel and send it. Also from a U.K. company, the shirts retail for approximately $450  in U.S. dollars.

Sync Your Time Zones. Is your family member or friend in a different time zone? A dual time zone watch (starting at $27) lets you keep track of what time it is for them as well as for you, making it easier to figure out when to call or text or just to help you envision where they are in their day.

Connection Is Just a Tap Away

Inexpensive and easy to use, these four apps are available to help you stay connected:

1. Touch Room shows you and your loved one the same screen on your smartphones. You each touch the screen and a dot appears for each fingertip. You pull your dot around the screen and when you both touch the same spot on the screen, it vibrates, letting you know you're connecting.

2. Glympse is an app that lets you see in real time on a map where your loved one is. Cami Zimmer, Glympse executive VP explains, "We hear many stories of people using the Glympse app while traveling to see their grandchildren, giving them a real glimpse into the ETA of when they will actually arrive.  In fact, some have mentioned how fun it is to have the grandchildren come rushing out of their house to greet them as they drive up the driveway."

3. Loklok lets you enjoy a share-locked screen on your phone with someone else. The app installs the locked screen (the screen that shows on your phone when you are not using it). You can each write or draw on the screen and it will show up on both phones.

4. The Kast app allows you to watch a streaming movie or TV show with your loved one wherever that person is. You can talk to, and see, each other as you watch it. Imagine sharing an animated film with a young grandchild and how much closer that could make you feel or how fun it would be to watch your favorite streaming show with your faraway daughter.

Mark Ollila, Kast CEO and co-founder, explains, "At Kast, we were inspired by the desire for people to come together around content that matters, and to share experiences instantly with those that matter most."

Brette Sember Brette Sember is the author of many books about divorce, child custody, business, health, food, and travel. She writes online content and does indexing and editing. Read More
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