THE YEAR 2013 might not have seen many noteworthy breakthroughs or innovations in terms of smartphones or tablets, with the year failing to deliver anything but updated models and refreshed designs. But that doesn't mean the year didn't bring its fair share of quirky, less conventional gadgets and unusual devices worthy of a mention.
From Bluetooth-enabled smartpens to app-controlled light bulbs, here are some of our favourites, in no particular order.
Livescribe 3 Smartpen
The Livescribe 3 Smartpen is indisputably one of the coolest gadgets to come out of 2013, boasting some unique and innovative features that mean note-takers will never have to miss an important quote again.
The third iteration was launched in Autumn, touting some major changes. The smartpen, which is known for its ability to take a note of whatever its user is scribbling and copy it on the fly, does this now using Bluetooth Smart LE technology, transporting everything that is written on special Livescribe dot paper to an iOS device via a Livescribe+ app.
Livescribe 3 is available in two versions, one for £129.99, which includes the smartpen along with a 50-sheet starter notebook, as well as a microUSB charging cable and a black tungsten-carbide medium-tip ink cartridge. Priced at £169.99, the Livescribe Smartpen 3 Pro Edition includes a leather Smartpen portfolio with a 100-sheet hardbound journal, a one-year subscription to Evernote Premium, a charging cable and an additional ink cartridge.
Philips Hue and Friends of Hue LED light system
Dutch electronics firm Philips launched its LED digital lighting system Hue back in late 2012, however it wasn't until mid 2013 that the gadget really came into its own.
Controlled by mobile devices via a WiFi bridge that hooks up to an internet router, the LED lightbulbs allow users to control the colour of lighting in environments for different moods via an app on iOS or Android mobile devices.
This year, Philips added additional lighting options to the smartphone-controlled system and a feature dubbed "Friends of Hue". The additions are Livingcolours Bloom lights and Livingcolours Lightstrips, which are different variations and shapes of bulbs that are controlled by the Hue app to deliver different, more dynamic lighting systems in the home.
The interesting thing about the lightbulbs is that Philips has left the software development kit (SDK) open for developers so the lighting can be controlled in future apps, opening up the technology for a host of possible innovations.
Gmax 3D printer
3D printers are by no means a new invention – early versions can be traced back to the 1980s. But it's not every day you meet someone who has built a 3D printer to then design and print their own much larger 3D printer, which is then used to print even more 3D printers that are then shipped off as flat-pack build-it-yourself additive manufacturing devices capable of a larger-than-average build volume of 41x41x23cm.
Seen here first at The INQUIRER when we met with the printer's designer Gordon LaPlante, who showed us the Gmax during its prototype phase earlier this year, in his living room design studio in Brooklyn, the flat-pack 3D printer kit is now available to buy on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website from $1,095.
LaPlante insists the Gmax is very easy to assemble, as buyers need only to "slide in and screw" the pieces together. It might not be available in your local Maplin store just yet, but it's definitely one of our favourite and most innovative gadgets of 2013.