The week in gadgets: stocking fillers, an iPad amplifier and a juggling robot (video)

10 Dec 2012

Disney Research's animatronic humanoid robot

A look at gadget happenings, as we give you gift ideas for Christmas stockings, the humble beanie hat gets an audio add-on, the Amplifiear for the iPad comes out of Kickstarter mode, and Disney develops a robot that can play catch.

Christmas stocking fillers

You may have seen our tech gift guides to the best smartphones, e-readers, tablets, cameras, camcorders, kids’ toys and games, music players, speakers and headphones this Christmas, but there are a some small tech treats we left out.

A great stocking filler for tech lovers is a stand-out case for their prized possession – after all, these gadgets of ours need protecting, but we still want to keep them looking good.

You can order striking iPhone, iPod and iPad cases from Redbubble, priced from around US$35. These custom cases feature artwork from Redbubble’s network of independent designers from around the world. There are thousands of designs to choose from and each one is printed on demand, shipping within 24 hours. The printing process used embeds the design into the one-piece shatterproof case so it won’t fade or peel.

iPhone, iPod and iPad cases from Redbubble

iPhone, iPod and iPad cases from Redbubble

You can also pick up some unique cases and skins for iPhones, iPods and laptops from Society6 artists, priced from US$15.

iPhone and iPad covers from Society6

iPhone and iPad covers from Society6

Or you could buy Irish with a beautiful Carve wooden iPhone case. The brand has released the first in its series of designer cases in the form of ‘Sax of the Dead’ from illustrator Steve Simpson.

'Sax of the Dead' engraved Carve case designed by Steve Simpson

‘Sax of the Dead’ engraved Carve case, designed by Steve Simpson

A standard Carve case costs €39 while this designer version costs €59.99. You can also pick up a simple CarveStand for €9.99.

CarveStand from Carve

Another great stocking filler for techies is a Raspberry Pi T-shirt, which are on sale until this evening at 20pc off. Coincidentally, today is also the last day you can order to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

Raspberry Pi tech evangelist Rob Bishop models a Rasperry Pi T-shirt (image by Charlotte Spencer)

Raspberry Pi tech evangelist Rob Bishop models a Raspberry Pi T-shirt. Image by Charlotte Spencer

All profits from sale of the T-shirts go to the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity that funds worldwide outreach, education and development work.

Surround sound

Headphones and headwear don’t always get along, but Aerial 7 has come up with a solution. The Sound Disk Sports Beanie (US$60), available in black, red, blue or white, contains a pair of 35mm speakers that are just 8.5mm thick.

Sound Disk Sports Beanie

The speakers can be connected to a smartphone or music player using a 3.5mm jack, while an integrated microphone allows users to make and receive phone calls. All the while, the moisture-wicking fabric beanie will keep your head dry.

Amplified iPad

The Amplifiear iPad speaker booster by Nonlinear Studio is a Kickstarter project success. By clipping the Amplifiear to the corner of the iPad, it works like a mini amphitheatre, boosting the sound of the rear-facing speakers by redirecting the sound towards the user.


The booster is especially effective on higher frequencies and overall volume is said to be increased by up to 10dB. Available in six colours that match Apple’s Smart Case, the Amplifiear costs US$24.99. It’s also an environmentally conscious product made of ABS plastic and 100pc recyclable.

The Amplifiear

Disney’s catch-playing robot

Coming soon to a theme park near you: a robot that can play catch. Disney Research has developed an animatronic humanoid robot that can catch a ball thrown by a human and throw it back while also reacting to the game, shrugging its shoulders and appearing disappointed when it misses or drops the ball. 

An external camera system is used to locate the balls and a Kalman filter predicts its destination and timing. The robot’s hand can then be positioned to the predicted location in order to catch and toss the ball back to its human counterpart.


The robot can also juggle with a human partner using three balls and one hand.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic