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Tech Culture

Exploding Kittens and Other Geeky Gifts We Secretly Wish We Got

Dec 25th, 2015 6:49am by
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The gifts are all unwrapped — and they turned out to all be the “usual suspects”: Amazon’s #1 best-selling game appears to be Fallout 4 — conveniently released in November to catch the big Black Friday shopping rush — and we’ve already written about the slew of new Star Wars toys, and that hip new Thing Explainer book by XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe. But after all the egg nog, when truth is finally told… Here’s what we’d really wanted for the holidays.

Hatching Dinosaur Candle

“Melt away the wax egg to reveal an adorable porcelain raptor,” reads the description of this irresistible gift, which turns the simple act of lighting a candle into your own personal Jurassic Park. “Add a little prehistoric ambiance to your humble abode” suggests the candle’s page at, which promises that once your velociraptor has been excavated, it’s “Ready to train to do your bidding.”


In fact, the velociraptor is made out of porcelain. The creators assert that the embedded creature was “excavated from the bubbling swamps of Isla Nublar.”

Unlike real prehistoric velociraptors, this one may have some soot on its face from your burning candle wick. But the most important disclaimer comes from the fine print on its web page, which describes the device as “Available to pre-order, expected 8 Feb 2016.”

So it might make a better gift for Valentine’s Day.

Exploding Kittens

Just four months ago this trendy card game set a new Kickstarter record, with 219,382 backers pledging $8,783,571 to fund its creation — and by Christmas it was one of Amazon’s top-5 best-selling toys. It became the most-backed project ever in Kickstarter history, and one of its top-ten all-time money-raisers, and in August the first decks of cards finally began shipping. Now that Christmas is here, more curious geeks were finally getting their big chance to play with it.

“How can you not love a game where you kill your friends with exploding kitties?” wrote one reviewer on Amazon, comparing it to a game of Russian Roulette. “It is short, but awesome. ”

Exploding Kittens card game

“Players draw cards until someone draws an Exploding Kitten, at which point they explode,” explains the game’s official site, “unless that player has a Defuse card, which can defuse the Kitten using things like laser pointers, belly rubs, and catnip sandwiches.”

Much of the fun comes from the game’s geek-friendly illustrations by Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal), who also pens a popular online comic  as well as the book “How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.” With millions of fans on Facebook, he helped this game reach its first fundraising goal within 8 minutes — and the rest is history.

CNN describes the new game that he’s illustrated as “like UNO, except there are goats, magical enchiladas, and kittens that can kill you”.


“Sophisticated. Elegant. Open Source… Made for women who celebrate art, science, engineering and great design.”


The $75 iNecklace ships with a subtly pulsing LED mimicking the “breathing” effect of the LEDs on Apple’s Macs, MacBooks, and the iMac — but its source code, schematics and circuit board and CAD files are all posted on GitHub. “Mod & Hack away!” encourages the product’s page at “The firmware and PCB files are identical to the iCufflinks,” explains the necklace’s README.txt file, linking to another hackable jewelry product by Adafruit, and they both look like fun “projects” to tinker away on.

iCufflinks - Open Source

In November, even included the iNecklace on their list of 14 Amazing Open Source Gifts for the Holidays. And by Wednesday night, there were only 12 left in stock.

The iNecklace was first released in 2011, and within months someone was already making us jealous by blogging that “iHacked the iNecklace.” The tinkerer discovered an easy way to change the color of its LED display — just insert a piece of colored plastic at the front of the assembly. It turns out that a simple felt tip marker was enough to change clear plastic into the perfect color diffuser. “I chose purple since it’s my wife’s favorite color,” the tinkerer noted. And there’s got to be a unique thrill that you get when you’ve just hacked a piece of expensive jewelry.

A Bluetooth-Enabled Hoverboard

IO Hawk calls its futuristic self-balancing two-wheeled scooters “the next evolution in the way that we move. ” It’s just one of several manufacturers selling the trendy new hoverboards, which Wired described as “kind of like a Segway — but with no handlebars.”

In the spring of 2015, the intriguing new devices suddenly rolled into the public consciousness, turning up everywhere from Justin Bieber’s Instagram account to a surreal video clip of Jamie Foxx rolling onto the stage of The Tonight Show. And now some of these “Personal Motorized Transporters” are even Bluetooth-enabled, so you can stream music from your smartphone directly into the speakers under your feet!


Unfortunately, there are also reports that they’re dangerous. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating “at least 10” complaints of hoverboards that suddenly burst into flames, which also prompted an investigation by Consumer Reports. “It was not hard to find test subjects. People routinely dropped what they were doing to come see the boards in action,” the publication noted.

Though they’ve been banned in New York City and mostly banished from Amazon and, everyone’s fascinated by the trendy new toy. The magazine’s conclusion? “[A]lways, always, always wear a helmet… There’s no predicting when or how you’re going to fall and it happens so quickly that you have no time to react.” And readers are also reminded that “These are not brand-name products… They’re barely regulated.”

Of course, the next cool thing appears to be a hoverboard which can actually hover in the air for up to six minutes.

Pyro – Open Palm Fireball Shooter

Sure, there’s lots of nice Christmas gifts — but only one that can make you feel like Iron Man.

The Pyro “Open Palm Fireball Shooter” is possibly the most dangerous toy ever created. Er, scratch that. “Pyro is not a toy,” warns one write-up at “You must be at least 18 to purchase it, as well as agree to watch the Pyro instructional video in its entirety prior to using it as your next party trick or in the talent portion of the Cosplay Pageant…”

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Stage magician Adam Wilber spent two years designing “a high-tech professional tool that will turn its trained subjects into Marvel superheroes or Fire Marios as they unleash real rolling flames from the palms of their hands.”

There’s four “chambers” in the unit, which straps onto one wrist. You discreetly trigger the fireballs with a remote hidden in your other hand. You can even trigger the launch of fireballs from up to 30 feet away, Wilber explains in a promotional video for his product. “Control the elements…! It’s sleek! It’s black! It fits under your sleeve undetectable.

“And allows you at any time you want to shoot fireballs at will.”



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