Illustration by Matt Murphy
Odds & Ends

Mindtribe Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Google Jacquard, SmartThings Hub, and 3D Printers

Now that Thanksgiving is taken care of, our next task at hand is to prepare for the winter holidays. What presents do people want? How to entertain out of town, or not so out of town, guests? Fear not, gentle readers, for Mindtribe is back with our suggestions for things to play with and activities to do that you might not find on normal gift lists.

Our suggestions are from actual Mindtribers who can attest to their legitimacy. We generally skew towards things with a hands-on and techie-sciencey bent, but you never know. We hope that these suggestions help provide inspiration to you and yours.

Take a Blacksmithing Class

There are few things as fundamentally satisfying as making an enduring and useful object. Blacksmithing is a craft that is surprisingly accessible by taking a local class. Depending on the class and your available time, you can make objects ranging from a relatively simple bottle cap opener to the beautiful knife pictured here and made over a few days by a Mindtriber. A couple of local San Francisco Bay Area workshops include the Crucible and Forged Axes (where the knife was made).

Image source: Mindtribe

Home Automation Smart Hub

Home automation has been surging these past few years, with all manner of household sensors and devices gaining both smarts and the potential for network connectivity. The dream has been to be able to do things like teach you home to turn on your favorite music when you enter a room or to turn off the lights and lock the doors when you go to sleep. But for maximum flexibility connecting all of those sensors and devices both to each other and to the internet, you need a smart hub. Smart Hubs act as the glue and the brains to let you tell your home what to do and when.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is one such hub suggested by one of our Mindtribers. It includes wireless connectivity through ZigBee, ZWave and WiFi and has built in support for a wide variety of existing smart home sensors and devices. It also has a strong user community to help you figure out how to do things like turning on your disco ball and playing ABBA whenever you open your fridge. If you like to fiddle with things, setting up a smart home will keep you endlessly entertained.

Image source: Samsung

Kayak in Bioluminescent Waters

It turns out that you don’t have to go to the warm waters of Puerto Rico or the Maldives to see one of nature’s most magical displays. Tomales Bay, right in the backyard of the San Francisco Bay Area, has lovely displays of bioluminescent waters during all but the coldest months. Several tour operators offer guided night kayaking tours, including Point Reyes Outdoors and Blue Waters Kayaking. If you’re not local but are near the ocean, check around your local area. You might be surprised. The San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, for instance, also have spectacular displays of bioluminescence the right times of the year.

Image source: Tim King

Smart Phone Controlled Toys

There are a great number of physical toys controlled via Apps that you load to your smartphone. This approach enables a lot more interactivity and sophistication with what you can do, versus a traditional dedicated RC controller. One great example this year is the Sphero R2-D2 – We had fun tearing this down, but not before we got to play with it. It’s cute animated gestures and easy to use app made this toy an enjoyable experience.

Image source: Sphero

Board Games

A section on Board Games is becoming a fixture in our annual suggestions list. In this day and age of video games, we still like to grab a group of family and friends to play a night of board games. This year’s favorites include:

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is the latest chapter of the popular Pandemic series of games from Z-man. You and your team are racing to save humanity from a global epidemic. Who knew epidemiology could be so fun? The wrinkle here is that what you do now will have an effect on future games!

Image source: Z-Man Games


Exploding Kittens is the very popular and bizarre spawn of the collaboration between the creator of the webcomic The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, and Elan Lee. It’s fast to learn and play and the artwork and concept are surreal and hilarious. Also check out their many other versions as well as other games such as Bears vs. Babies.

Image source: Exploding Kittens, LLC

Steel Tongue Drum

One of our ‘Triber’s walked in with one of these beauties recently, and we’ve got to say, it both looks and sounds amazing. The one we played with came from Kaizen Drums, but plan ahead, they have a bit of a lead time.

Image source: Kaizen Drums

Form 2 SLA 3D Printer

What hardware engineering company would be complete without a 3D printer? At Mindtribe, we’ve got a number of 3D printers, and the most recent addition to the stable is our Form 2 SLA 3D printer. At $3,500 the price tag may be a bit out of reach for many enthusiasts and hobbyists, but we’ve found it well worth the investment – nearly every day people are pulling off high-quality prints off our trusty Form, both for client work and for personal projects.

It’s one-seventh the price of our higher end poly-jet printer, but the print quality is consistently almost equal. Furthermore, the variety of materials that we can print in is a huge plus. There is an ABS-like resin, a clear resin, even a food-safe resin (just to name a few). Even the resins themselves are about one-seventh the cost of our poly-jet resin.

We’re huge fans of our Form 2 3D printer – not only does it perform nearly as well as much higher priced units, but it also looks great doing it. If you have the budget, it would be a great addition to anyone’s shop or DIY space.

Image source: Mindtribe

Products Mindtribe Worked On

Finally, here are a few of the products that we had a hand in that launched this past year and are available now. Check them out!

ZOS Halo – The ZOS Halo is a better way to preserve the wine remaining in opened bottles by removing all of the oxygen remaining in the bottle in under 30 minutes. No pumping or injection of nitrogen needed. ZOS Halo looks like a high-tech bottle stopper and you simply pop in onto the bottle and you’re done! A replaceable cartridge removes the oxygen. Every time you use it, the system does a self-test and lets you know via a light ring if the cartridge is still good or if it should be replaced. Each cartridge lasts between 5 – 15 bottles depending on usage.

Image source: Zos Wine


Levi’s® Commuter™ Trucker jacket – Long story short, this is a very nice denim style jacket that amazingly has a Bluetooth enabled touchpad woven right into its sleeve. It’s not laminated on or sewn into a pocket. The touchpad is literally part of the weave of the fabric itself. You can use this touchpad to control your music player, or answer a call or do any number of other customizable functions, which you can assign to different swipe or touch gestures.

Image source: Google


Elfkins – Elfkin is a cute interactive toy for young kids with fully animated movement and audio. It can do things like tell stories and respond to touch or sound, but its primary function is to relay audio messages between the child and their parents via sound and animatronic motions and gestures. Obviously, the point is not to replace parent interaction, but to give kids and parents an additional fun and non-synchronous way to share interesting tidbits during the day. Our mini-Mindtribers have found Elfkin to be quite engaging.

Image source: Empath Interactive


Play Gym – 2017 has been a banner year for Mindtribe babies. We are very pleased to see The Play Gym from Lovevery is now available. The Play Gym was developed from the ground up to provide age appropriate stimulation for babies up to toddlers. It comes with a variety of accessories and an amazing user guide which helps to provide you with useful nuggets of information as you play with your child over that first formative year. All of the materials were carefully chosen for safety with an emphasis on wood and organic cotton fabrics, and the whole thing looks great. Mindtribe babies and parents give this a thumbs up!

Image source: Lovevery


Lightseekers connected toys – It’s a little hard to succinctly describe Lightseekers. It’s a mashup of physical toys and a video game. What you do with your action figures and their accessories, such as wings or magic staffs, is directly reflected in the virtual game world on your mobile device or computer and vice versa– the figures and accessories light up and make sounds and respond directly to actions within the game while you play. With lots of characters and an expansive lore, kids will find a lot to explore. The game itself is free and can be downloaded from the App Store or GooglePlay.

Image source: Lightseekers