By Nick Caruso
on 12.25.13

Grumble away, gramps: sending a third of our wages to Uncle Sam and marching slowly toward death notwithstanding, the constant exponential expansion and discovery of technology is neither slowing nor ever going to end. So instead of griping about not knowing how the cloud works, try embracing tech. It can get overwhelming, sure, but there are some incredible advances being made, many of which are fantastically important and supremely innovative. Our favorite tech items of 2013 put those advances to use, so you’d be smart to hop on board.

Yves-Behar-Fuseproject--August-Smart-Lock-tig-gear-patrol Yves Béhar + Fuseprojects August Smart Lock
In what would surely be one of Ray Bradbury’s darkest nightmares, this door lock app enables hands-free unlocking and locking of your home via a smartphone and offers secure access only to people with the shared lock code. Simply walking up to the door, phone in pocket, triggers an “Open Sesame” response for you and invited guests. The digital code is encrypted, so if ever you feel your cordon has been compromised, shutting out unwanted guests is easy as logging on and deleting the “key”. fuseproject.com ()
iOS7-Gear-Patrol iOS 7
The world’s most popular mobile OS has gotten a stellar redesign, along with a host of major and minor improvements. The gorgeous new interface features multiple layers and semi-translucent icons, lending it vitality and functionality its two-dimensional predecessor lacks. Along with beautiful design improvements (including a parallax-controlled background that shifts as you move the phone), iOS 7 comes with a powerful new camera, a vastly improved browser, enhanced multitasking capabilities and even a new Siri. These major upgrades are well supplemented with slight but necessary fixes like notification syncing, activation lock, and a redesigned app store. apple.com
K-Array-Anakonda-KAN200-Speaker-Gear-Patrol K Array Anakonda KAN200 Speaker
The Anakonda is a much friendlier take on the giant reptilian constrictor made infamous by the eponymous (well, not with a “k” part) box office smash of ’97. These are 6.5-foot long, cord-like speakers that can be daisy-chained together in strings up to 210 feet long. Each Anakonda is a 300-watt max-power audio output device that’s perfect for PA systems in situations where boxes won’t work. White and black cloth socks are included for blending into the scenery. k-array.com()
DuPont-Corian-Wireless-Charging-Surfaces-Gear-Patrol DuPont Corian Wireless Charging Surfaces
DuPont’s artificial granite Corian countertops have found use in myriad applications, including private kitchens and professional environments. Now DuPont’s joined with the Power Matters Alliance to roll out wireless charging tech embedded directly into the Corian. Plugging a small adapter into your phone’s charging port and setting it on the counter (which comes in nearly any hue you’d like) for a spell will let the juice flow. Welcome to the kitchen of the future. powermatters.org ()
Garmin-HUD-Gear-Patrol Garmin HUD
As if we didn’t already spend enough time pretending to be Tom Cruise, the enablers engineers at Garmin are rolling out a fighter-jet-style HUD GPS display module for road-going vehicles. The HUD relays information from your smartphone — just download the app and connect via Bluetooth — and projects it onto a clear reflective decal you install yourself. See directional data as well as speed, recommended lanes, speed camera warnings and much more without looking away from your windshield. $130
One-Today-App-Gear-Patrol One Today App by Google
Google’s One Today app makes it simple to be a giver. Each day a new project is introduced; with a flick of the thumb, a user can donate a dollar to the cause, then share his or her donation history with friends via social media platforms or match donations friends have posted. One Today goes to show how easy it is to make a small impact on the world — even people who are all thumbs can be successful micro-philanthropists. Free
Ubuntu-Edge-Gear-Patrol Ubuntu Edge Smartphone
Ubuntu is taking on the smartphone and portable PC market in a no-holds-barred kind of way: by crowdfunding a majorly advanced mobile phone/computer. The sculpted, minimalist device marries the most ideal of tech, like an optimally-sized 4.5-inch touchscreen with emphasis on brightness and color depth, a low-light, 8MP rear camera, dual LTE receivers and much more. With a promised class-leading CPU and 128GB hard drive, plugging in a mouse, keyboard and monitor essentially turn it into a mobile PC. $625
Fitbit-Force-Gear-Patrol FitBit Force
Almost any alternative is cheaper than hiring a personal trainer, and with the ever-expanding world of technology tracking, pursuing your own health is easy as wearing a watch. FitBit’s minimalist Force is a comfortable, water resistant wrist-worn device that tracks steps taken, distance traveled, sleep patterns, calories burned and more. Use the simple display to monitor your activity or easily sync with Bluetooth 4.0 to iPhones and Android devices (some of which can use NFC) to track your progress with advanced analytics. The Force vibrates to gently rouse you from sleep and the band will work with other fitness apps you may already use. $130
tap-tap-watch-gear-patrol TapTap Communication Wristband
Back in our day, being in a long-distance relationship meant you dealt with the pain and madness of separation realistically: you wept and panicked constantly. Today’s kids have it easy — now they can communicate via touch at a great distance. The Tap Tap is a pair of slap bracelets (yep), each of which includes a small accelerometer and capacitive sensor that work together to sense taps and touches; those sensations are then translated to the second bracelet. They pair via Bluetooth to smartphones, which use a simple app to manage bracelet settings and allow users to “touch” each other digitally, too. There is potential for developers to massage fitness- and sleep-tracking programs into the Tap Tap as well, along with alarms and video game controls — so you’ll be able to wear more than your emotions on your sleeve. $60+
Rocksmith-2014-Gear-Patrol Rocksmith 2014
How much better would you be at math had you learned your times tables while playing Zelda? Okay, maybe not the best analogy, but a similar principle is at play with Rocksmith 2014. It’s basically a video game that teaches guitar; in fact, Ubisoft claims that in 60 days players/students will show a marked improvement. Use the included cable to plug your electric strummer into a gaming system or PC and soon you’ll be shredding — without costly lessons or all that silly conventional practicing. $80
Nikon-DF-DSR-Gear-Patrol Nikon Df
The Df is a throwback to those halcyon days decades ago when cameras sported dials and chrome and leather and other things that make us salivate. The 1.6-pound body houses a 16.2MP sensor with an ISO range that tops out at 12,800 but expands to 204,800. It’ll shoot at 5.5 fps and the optical viewfinder is ever so real (not that the 3.2-inch digital screen isn’t). The one thing this modern-meets-heritage model doesn’t have is video capability, but then again neither did your dad’s Nikon F. Of course there are many shooting modes, extras and countless accessories to be had, and should you want to bundle Nikon’s new 50mm f/1.8G lens with the body it’ll only cost a bit more. $2,750+