10 Next-Level Gadgets That Changed The Game In 2016

Westworld's futuristic story might seem unreal, but after this year in tech, it's clear that even the unimaginable can become reality. Before 2016, would you have believed that you'd be able to buy printers that create Hogwarts-style moving photos, lights that change color on demand, and shoes that lace up of their own accord? I certainly didn't.

In 2016, the most hyped event of the year was, per usual, Apple's September iPhone announcement. But plenty of other releases made news. Snapchat, rebranded as Snap Inc., brought us its very first physical product, which didn't need dog tongues or pirate beards to feel just as fun. Google's first smartphone was a pleasantly surprising win (and a reminder that Apple's not the only game in town).

There were also some more independent successes in tech that made me excited about where we are — and where we're going. Ahead, the 10 products that really stood out, and got me talking and texting in 2016. Whether you want to be an undercover DJ or a home design aficionado, these devices are making it easier than ever.
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Video: Courtesy of Lifeprint.
The Photo Innovator: Lifeprint

There are many Harry Potter-inspired products out there, but none feels as if it actually belongs in J.K. Rowling's universe as much as this one. The magic of the Lifeprint photo printer is that it brings photos to life. Print everything from live photos and Snapchat videos to Instagrams and GIFs. Then, open the accompanying app, hold your phone over the photo, and watch the scene come alive, no spells necessary (unless you count augmented reality). You can frame these "moving" photos, hang them throughout your apartment, and pretend you really do live at Hogwarts.

Lifeprint Photo and Video Printer, $129.95, available at Apple.
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The Smartphone Game-Changer: Google Pixel

No Android smartphone has ever tempted me to stray from my iPhone. Until Google's highly anticipated Pixel. Since I first tried it out, I've been splitting my time between the two devices, loving the Pixel for its intuitive home screen setup, smart Google Assistant, and impressive battery life. Get yourself a phone with a battery that lasts more than a day, and discover what "unlimited texting" actually means.

Google Pixel, starting at $649, available at Google.
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The Decorator's Savior: Aurora

My apartment decorating skills leave much to be desired, and I could definitely do with some help from Chip and Joanna Gaines. But these colorful, LED lights are what every non-Fixer Upper needs to elevate their pad. You can change the arrangement of lights at any time and switch up the color scheme to make your place feel more relaxing, happy, or cozy, all through the connected app. It's a great way to start 2017 on a bright note.

Aurora Modular Lighting Kit, $199.99, available at Fab.
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The Futuristic Eyewear: Spectacles

When I first read about Snapchat's Spectacles, I thought they might have a fate similar to that of Google Glass. But the playful approach that Snapchat brought to their release (flying Snap Bots!) coupled with the fact that the shades are just meant for recording video, and nothing else, made these pure fun. If you can get your hands on a pair, they are well worth the $129.99 price tag. I'm crossing my fingers for another release from Snap Inc. in 2017.

Snap Inc. Spectacles, $129.99, available at select Snap Bots.
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The Playful Music Maker: ROLI

My music career consisted of six years of subpar flute playing in middle and high school bands. I won't ever be Calvin Harris or Avicii, but with ROLI's Lightpad, at least I can try. The touch sensitive block connects to an app where you can select music preferences. Simply slide and press your fingers on the block to have electro-dance jam sessions or epic drum solos.

ROLI Lightpad Block, $179.95, available at Apple.
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The Smart Earbuds: Skybuds

Apple heralded the era of wireless earbuds with the much hyped announcement of AirPods this year. They were quick to receive the late-night treatment — spoof after spoof mocked how easy it is to lose a single Pod (and replacing one will cost you $69). If that sounds as unpleasant to you as it does to many people, Skybuds are a great alternative. These wireless earbuds come with a charging case like AirPods, but they turn and lock in your ear, making them feel much more secure.

Skybuds, $219.99, available at Skybuds.
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The Fashion Influencer: Nike HyperAdapt

Attempts at connected apparel and footwear often fall flat. Either they look too weird, feel too unnecessary, or, more often, have tech features that don't really work. But Nike is a step ahead (sorry, I had to): HyperAdapt sneakers, the first ever self-lacing shoes, are the real deal. You don't have to worry about laces coming untied or the fit being too loose or too tight, so you can focus on the run or walk ahead.

Nike HyperAdapt, $720, available in select stores now and at Nike.com in 2017.
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The TV Whisperer: Apple Siri Remote

Yes, this technically came out in 2015, but Apple's Siri remote made my 2016 list because of how many times it has saved me from the never-ending rabbit hole that is IMDB. Looking for movies on Netflix with Bradley Cooper in them? Just ask the remote to pull some up. Good comedies from the '90s? Siri can handle that, too. She keeps getting updates, so you'll be in good hands in 2017. Apple's new TV app, which will keep all your movies and shows synced across all your devices, is also a worthwhile download.

Apple Siri Remote, $79, available at Apple.
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Photo: Courtesy Microsoft.
The Next Level Artist's Palette: Microsoft Surface Dial

It doesn't matter if you're a professional artist, designer, or just someone who likes drawing: Microsoft's small circular Dial will make painting and sketching on-screen feel like the on-paper experience. Instead of having to select colors from a tiny menu, you can just turn the dial to choose your hue from the color wheel. It's one of the coolest creative tools that's also totally practical and affordable.

Microsoft Surface Dial, $99.99, available at Microsoft.
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The Charging Simplifier: Mophie Charge Force

You might know Mophie for its portable chargers, but my favorite release from the company is this year's Charge Force wireless charging base. It gets rid of tangled wires altogether and makes my desk at home look so much neater. What better way to declutter your space heading into the New Year?

Mophie Charge Force Wireless Charging Base, $39.95, available at Mophie.
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