Smart gifts for the college students on your list

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Mini Jambox pumps out the jams. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
From music to MacBooks, these gifts will resonate with students. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

You might think college students are tricky to shop for, but in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. Since they’re constantly swamped with homework and simultaneously managing a busy social life, all they want is stuff that makes their lives easier and more fun.

If you’re stressing about what to get the student in your life this holiday season, never fear. We’ve collected some great gift ideas, handpicked by college students for college students:

Ruh-roh: Your smart food scale and fitness tracker are talking to each other

The folks at The Orange Chef prepare lunch in their San Francisco offices with smart scale PrepPad.Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The folks at The Orange Chef prepare lunch in their San Francisco offices with smart scale PrepPad. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

This may be the last time you feel good about walking half a mile to get a cronut: a calorie-counting food scale and fitness tracker are on to you.

Smart food scale Prep Pad now synchs with Jawbone Up, keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you are burning.

It’s latest buddy system in the quantified self movement, where, as we reported earlier, your car is already conversing with your fitness tracker about how much you should be hoofing it instead of driving. Sales of fitness gadgets like the Jawbone Up, Fitbit and Nike + are over the previous year, leaving us with 19 million trackers and trainers strapped to our wrists.

In the future, your car will tell you to walk instead

Brandon Nee, an engineer at Automatic, designed an app to get people out of their cars, even though he doesn't have one to get into. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Brendan Nee, an engineer at Automatic Labs, designed an app to get people out of their cars, even though he doesn't have one to get into. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO —  Brendan Nee is a walking contradiction. He’s car guru who doesn’t own one, a 21st-century geek with an 18th-century mustache who has come up with a novel bit of nagware that could help Americans get off their spreading behinds.

An engineer working on “smart car assistant” Automatic, he spends many of his weekends at hackathons and has a coder’s physique to show for it. In January, he won the Clinton Foundation Code4Health Codeathon by developing a working prototype of an app called Walkoff in just a weekend. A few months later, Nee and team rolled out a more polished version that mashes up the data Automatic pulls from cars with info gathered by a Jawbone Up fitness tracker, showing a user how much time they’re spending behind the wheel versus walking.

“Clearly, without an actual car, I’m not the ideal tester,” admits Nee. The closest he comes to owning a set of wheels is a retired public bus dubbed the PlayaPillar that he only rolls out for Burning Man.