For much of the year, I’m a grinch, complaining that Boston startups don’t really grok the consumer mindset. They excel primarily at selling to businesses. All the cool electronics companies are on the Left Coast. And so on . . .
But this week, I’m trying to see the eggnog glass as half-full. You could stuff a pretty big sack full of goodies made by Boston-area companies — or easily dole out one for each night of Hanukkah.
Here’s my curated list of cool gift ideas — some of which don’t require batteries, a wall outlet, or an instruction manual. Not everything is manufactured in Massachusetts, but all of it is designed here — and buying it supports the local innovation economy.
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I travel a lot, and two things always come with me. One is my Bose noise-canceling headphones.
The latest model, the QuietComfort 35 ($349) lets you press a button to start talking to Google’s intelligent assistant, asking questions about your schedule for the day or requesting the Ramones.
The other travel essential is a blazer from Brunswick Park ($299), a South Boston apparel startup. It’s stretchy, comfortable, wrinkle-free, and made from nice warm merino wool. It’s also machine-washable. (There’s a women’s version, too.)
Ministry of Supply is the only clothing company I know of that was founded by MIT engineers. So it’s not surprising that it’s using a technology called 3-D knitting to make blazers ($285), sweaters ($145), and sweater dresses ($285) that lack seams and have a more sculpted fit than mass-produced clothing.
Pavlok makes a wristband ($130) that you pair with your phone and then wear to bed. When it’s time to wake up, the company’s Shock Clock first tries to rouse you with gentle vibrations. If that fails, a minute later, you get a small — but hard to ignore — series of electric zaps on your wrist.
If there’s a biker on your list who has been especially good, consider electric wheels from GeoOrbital ($999) and Superpedestrian ($1,499), which can turn just about any bike into a speed demon. Fortified Bike, of Boston, sells bicycles designed for the urban jungle (starting at $450), as well as theft-resistant bike lights (starting at $39).
Since I became a parent, music at bath time has been a must. Generally, I’ve used Bluetooth speakers perched on a shelf or a windowsill. But Speaker Creatures ($25) by OnHand of Charlestown can get closer to the action, thanks to their silicon skins and suction cups. Choose either the octopus or the snail, pair it with your smartphone, and let the sing-alongs begin.
Two local companies make robot housekeepers: SharkNinja, of Needham, sells the ION Robot 750, a disc-shaped vacuum ($350) you can control with your smartphone, and iRobot, of Bedford, offers similar products, as well as the Braava Jet 240 mopping robot for hard surfaces ($200 and up).
The audio company Sonos has a sizeable Boston office that does technology development, and much of the speech recognition software inside Amazon’s Echo devices is crafted in Cambridge — so you could pick up a Sonos One smart speaker ($199) or an Echo Dot ($30).
I wrote last week about the Jibo robot ($899), from a Boston startup, which aims to serve as a kind of countertop concierge for your home.
If you have a recipient who loves to garden, and can be a bit patient, the Billerica company Franklin Robotics is working on a solar-powered bot that battles weeds. Its Tertill device is priced at $250, and will start shipping next summer.
Boston-based SimpliSafe launched a $99 security camera in July, an ideal gift if you’re shopping for someone who’s a wee bit anxious about break-ins, or maybe just wants to keep an eye on their distant ski condo. Nifty feature: a steel “privacy shutter” covers the lens whenever the homeowner is in, and opens when he or she leaves.
Shopping on sites like Chewy.com (pet gear), Wayfair (home furnishings), Gemvara or CustomMade (custom jewelry), or The Grommet (unique products from independent creators) supports jobs in Boston. So does buying a gift card from sites like Rue La La (apparel and travel) or Drizly (beer, wine, and liquor delivered to your door).
Imperfect people always forget to buy a gift for at least one person, and perfect people get invited to unexpected parties.
In either case, it’s smart to have a couple of cylinders of McCrea’s caramels on hand. A generous sampler from the Hyde Park company costs $15 and includes flavors like single malt scotch, black lava sea salt, and ginger fusion.
When purchasing my form-fitting 3-D knit sweater, you may want to go up a size.