The weather outside is, thankfully, not so frightful as last year, but the calendar doesn’t lie: It’s holiday season. Hanukah kicks off tonight, and Christmas is just over a week away. And before you gather around the tree, menorah, or Festivus pole, gather around your smartphone. Some pretty amazing apps and app-controlled gadgets are designed to brighten up your holidays,
A Charlie Brown Christmas. What’s the only thing better than the perennial “Charlie Brown Christmas” TV special you remember from your youth? How about an eponymous app, an interactive “pop-up” book version that runs on your phone or tablet.
Narrated by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown, the app will read the story out loud to kids or let them read it themselves. It helps teach, too, as individual words are spoken with the tap of a finger. And like most app-based storybooks, this one has cool interactive elements: a working onscreen version of Schroeder’s piano, a Christmas tree kids can decorate, and so on.
Let’s see the print version of the book do all that. In your face, paper!
Lumenplay App-Enabled Lights. Talk about an idea whose time has come. Lumenplay gives you a traditional-looking string of holiday lights with a decidedly non-traditional twist: It’s controlled entirely by an app (available for Android and iOS).
Designed for indoor (e.g. tree) and outdoor (e.g. roof) applications alike, the Lumenplay lets you customize each light’s color, timing, and effect, complete with an optional music-visualization display: Whatever holiday or other songs you play, the lights will pulse to match. And because the lights incorporate Bluetooth, you control everything with just a few taps of your phone or tablet.
A C9 Starter Kit includes a Lumenplay controller and a string of 12 RGB LEDs, and Extender Strings are available to expand your entire setup to up to 500 lights — enough to make the neighbors insanely jealous.
NORAD Tracks Santa. Take the guesswork out of Santa’s arrival time — and improve your chances of getting the tykes into bed on Christmas Eve — with this free app. Available for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, NORAD Tracks Santa is the “official” Santa-tracking app of NORAD. (And apparently NORAD Tracks Santa is a real thing. Or at least as real as a thing can get about a fictional character.)
The app features a countdown timer, information about NORAD itself, and a game involving elves and gift delivery. Plus, it’s free. What’s not to like, even if you’re a Grinch?
Perfect Drink. If you bypassed that college mixology course in favor of more noble pursuits (like How to Brew Beer 101), you can still create holiday cheer like a pro during your holiday party. The Perfect Drink combines an app, a smart digital scale, a phone/tablet stand, and a drink shaker — everything you need to create perfect libations (except the booze, of course).
The app (compatible with iOS and most Android devices) supplies over 300 drink recipes (which you can customize based on what’s in your liquor cabinet), with the option to add your own. Thanks to the scale, there’s no measuring required: You just pour until the app tells you to stop. One Brandy Alexander, coming right up!
Photo credits: Loud Crow Interactive, Lumenplay, Pure Imagination LLC, Visionbox