Greg’s Holiday Gift Guide Picks for Every Budget

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Enough people have asked me “Greg, what would I buy someone who likes stuff that you like?” that I decided to put together a quick holiday gift guide of some of my favorite 2020 favorites with options for every budget…

Note: some of these are Amazon Affililate links, so feel free to not use my links if you want to stiff me $.08 cents off your total cart purchase. I get it.

DJI Mini2 drone ($450)

I own a DJI Spark, which is no longer in production because DJI has pivoted to this Mini platform. It’s a really nice, low-cost little drone that will do the job for amateurs like me.

Buy it here.

Oculus Quest 2 – $500

Having owned and operated nearly every possible virtual reality system on the market in the last 10 years, I can say that the Oculus Quest 2 is hands-down the best, portable, affordable, and most accessible system ever. It has six degrees of freedom (walkable VR). It’s wireless. And there are tons of games. Here are my kids’ 10 favorite VR apps.

Buy it here.

Nintendo Switch ($300)

Switch is an amazing platform. If you still have an old Nintendo Wii and are wishing you had an upgrade or the next similar platform for yourself and the folks you live with to hang out together and play over the holiday, the Nintendo Switch + Mario Kart is exactly what you’re looking for.

Buy one here.

Amazon Echo Frames ($250)

Amazon’s Echo Frames are the most affordable, effective, and consumer-facing look around the corner of where smart glasses trends are headed. Read my review here.

They look good. You can’t tell they are smart unless you’re told. And they are a remarkable step forward for getting our faces out of our phones and wrists in daily life. The public version is extremely affordable, and it’s easy to add prescription lenses.

Buy a pair here.

First Avenue LEGO set ($50)

I received this as a gift a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorite things that sits on my desk. I have so many amazing memories of First Avenue, and especially in this period of no-concerts, it’s been an awesome reminder of the fantastic music scene in Minneapolis. And note the gold star for Prince.

Buy this here.

Blue Kazoo Puzzles ($35)

These are super premium puzzles. They’re also a client. But they are AMAZING. Such high quality, and the founders Josh + Abraham write some pretty great marketing emails, too. I am buying them for myself and others this year.

Buy them here.

Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop book ($26)

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings and stories take place in an alternate version of Sweden in the ’80s and ’90s and include all kinds of fantastical technology, science, and the human consequences of our relationship with technology. Tales from the Loop Season 1 is streaming Amazon Prime – complete with a beautiful and haunting Philip Glass soundtrack. And I highly recommend it. Read more about my relationship with Stålenhag’s work here.

Buy it here.

Arby’s 13-Hour Puzzle ($25)

As seen in People magazine (cough, #client, cough)….
What’s the difference between Arby’s New 13-Hour Puzzle and Arby’s Classic 13-Hour Smoke Brisket? Just one bite and you’ll know this one is a puzzle.

Buy it here.

Amazon Echo Auto ($20)

If you’ve always wished your kids could ask Alexa to tell jokes, play “Old Town Road” and make fart noises while you drive them to school, now you can. But seriously, as more states pass distracted driving laws, hands-free technology is becoming more important – particularly for older cars that aren’t iOS CarPlay or Android Auto-enabled. This is the sweet spot for Echo Auto. Here’s my review.

Buy it here.

Fiddle Fone wooden phone surrogate ($18)

I originally bought this wooden scrolling phone as a joke for myself and to hold up on Zoom calls. But instead it’s turned into a daily-use fidget object for me while trying to pay attention during long online meetings. It’s funny and useful! And cheap!

Buy it here.

Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland book ($15)

“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain

The book is a brutal and unapologetic chronicle of the fantastical and fanciful belief systems that fuel the very ethos of the United States, and how religion, media, architecture, transportation, PT Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Walt Disney all share in the blame for the current state of American politics. I read it a year ago, and it mentally helped me prepare for the chaos of 2020. Highly recommended.

Buy it here.

 A bag of tiny novelty hands ($11)

What can I say? These are a hit on Zoom calls, with the kids, and really just bring me joy.

Buy them here.


Amazon Go and the post-cashier world

On holiday in New York this week I made time to stop by to see Amazon Go’s checkout‑free shopping experience, which just opened on Park Avenue in New York.

Amazon Go’s model uses computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning to detect what you take off the shelf — in a virtual cart — and then when you’re done shopping, you just leave the store.

No checkout. No self-scanner.

Just grab what you want and go — then your phone will get a push notification with your receipt.

I saw four real-life human people working the store (two out front and two restocking shelves and helping customers), so it wasn’t entirely a replacement for humans. But there certainly wasn’t a human being paid to man a cash register.

And although the behind the scenes experience of grab-and-go retail is downright magical, in practice it didn’t feel all that special.

In practice, the experience was anti-climactic and felt “normal,” which signals this could be as mainstream as automated check-outs at Target.

However, we need to do some further work weighing the pros, cons, and implications of a post-cashier world.

Specifically, surveillance culture coming to retail will have wide-reaching effects into privacy, audience targeting and personalization. In this case, by shopping at Amazon Go, you give Amazon permission to use cameras and machine learning to watch you shop.

Theoretically, Amazon now has a full scan of my face, body, posture and gait. They know what I looked at in the store, what I paused to look at, what I immediately skipped over, and of course, what I took off the shelf to buy. They can use that data to inform recommendations across the Amazon ecosystem to improve recommendations and better determine what triggers would compel me to buy certain products.

That’s great, if the targeting improves my shopping experience and lifestyle. That’s terrible if it’s used for more nefarious purposes.

The slippery slope of data in consumer marketing is wrought with “what-if’s,” but the Amazon Go experiment is extremely compelling.

The convenience of no checkout line when purchasing goods seems like technology that should absolutely exist in 2020. What will the big box stores do with all of that real estate if the checkout lanes are no longer needed? Meanwhile, I would certainly shop at Amazon Go again.

It’s a post-cashier world, and we’re just shopping in it.

Find Amazon Go stores in New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco.