Startland News and the Kansas City Star have partnered to publish content as part of the Star’s special section, “Spirit.” This story will appear in the Star’s Dec. 18 Sunday edition.
With its tech chops expanding like Kris Kringle’s waistline, Kansas City’s startups are starting to resemble the North Pole’s elves in their ability to churn out gifts.
From barbecue buffs to fitness freaks, Kansas City-area tech firms are targeting an array of audiences for their gadgets and gizmos. So to help the locally-minded shopper, Startland News dug up a handful of tech-inspired gift ideas for those on your list.
Fireboard smart thermometer
Price: Thermometer starts at $189
Creators: Ted Conrad and Steven Briggeman
Target audience: Barbecue enthusiasts and chefs
This is not your father’s thermometer. The Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled Fireboard provides chefs and pitmasters remote monitoring of temperature from a phone or web browser in real time. In addition to alarms that notify users when a dish reaches a specific temperature, Fireboard offers a cloud service that stores cooking data and generates analytics reports. While suitable for amateurs, the six-channel thermometer’s accuracy is made with commercial-grade kitchens in mind. The Kansas City company raised more than $35,000 on Kickstarter for the device, which is also used for monitoring temperatures in wine cellars and brewing operations.
Stoned Audio Earphones
Creators: Zach Kelling
Target audience: Audiophiles
There are gobs of wireless headphones out there, but Stoned Audio hopes to separate itself with quality sound and a relatively-rare design. The Kansas City firm created a pair of fully wireless earbuds that employ the latest version of Bluetooth — version 4.2 — to improve the connectivity range to about 30 feet and lower latency. The sweat-proof, noise-isolating earphones come with a charging case that doubles as a power bank and feature a microphone.
FEWDM’s Rock 360
Local owners: Tommy and Kacie Saunders
Target audience: Fitness junkies
At 8 pounds, the Rock 360 weighs more than your average ab roller — and for good reason. The omnidirectional device not only is intended to serve as a weight for core exercises, but also as a mount for your smartphone. With the ability to hold your phone, the Rock 360 allows its users to play exercise games or access specific workouts via the company’s app. Founded by former Mizzou wide receiver Tommy Saunders and his wife, Kacie, Kansas City-based FEWDM built the device and a few other fitness tech products to carve your abs. Employing a ball-bearing system, the Rock 360 nabbed the national spotlight via Spike TV’s “Sweat Inc.,” which welcomed Saunders to compete on the reality-competition show that features celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels.
Price: $5/video or $10/year subscription
Creators: Laura Steward
Target audience: Geographically-dispersed families
VideoFizz takes a greeting or “happy holidays” card to new level. After downloading the iOS or Android app, a user selects from a variety of templates — such as holiday, anniversary or happy birthday — to purchase. The user then sends an invitation to desired participants to record a brief video. The app then compiles the videos into one message that’s sent to the recipient, yielding a more powerful impact than a Facebook message or handwritten note.
Creators: Davide and Sara Rossi, Michael Chiang, Fabrizio Filippini
Target audience: Dog owners
Activity monitors have gone to the dogs. A graduate of the 2014 Kansas City-based Sprint Accelerator program, Fitbark created a wearable tracker to help monitor your dog’s health and activity. The device straps onto a dog’s collar to collect activity data that is then transmitted via low-energy Bluetooth to a smartphone app. A Fitbark also allows you to compare your pooch’s activity to other breeds.
Price: Starting at $60
Creators: Jason Carmen
Target audience: Absent-minded (remote) control freaks
The Blumoo is a home media device that allows users to control all their contraptions — cable boxes, TVs, audio receivers, speakers and more — via a mobile device and app. That means no more cornucopia of remotes to lose or feed to your couches. In addition to a channel guide, the sleek device also is a Bluetooth audio receiver for those wanting to play tunes on their home theater equipment.