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The New Smart Robot on the Market

Melody Serafino Design, Tech

Keecker is the newest smart robot on the market. It doesn’t only want to be your smart speaker, it also wants to be your movie player, video camera, personal assistant, and more.

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Nuraphones’ Custom Profiles Bring Out New Detail in Familiar Songs

Melody Serafino Design, Tech, World

The Nuraphones have some pretty lofty aspirations and an equally high $399 price tag. They’re also far from the first pair of headphones to promise a custom sound profile — that seems to be all the rage in the industry these days. But even taking all of that into account, Nura’s first product hits the mark. Hardware is, as they say, hard — but while the startup seems built around one (admittedly cool) feature, it’s clear the company has put a lot of time, care and money into product execution.

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Nuraphone Hands-on Review

Melody Serafino Design, Tech

Nura’s Nuraphone headphones have been crafted with the aim of adapting audio playback to your own hearing, incorporating novel technology and a hybrid in-ear-meets-over-ear design for better sound.

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9 Must-have Holiday Gifts From the Coolest Start-ups

Melody Serafino Design, Tech

For some on your holiday gift list, a tie and socks will do. For a special few, however, only the most elegant and noteworthy gifts are good enough.

Here are nine gifts for the hustler, the innovator, the contemplative creative. Not only are the products themselves great, but the entrepreneurial companies they come from are duly impressive.

1. Limited-edition print from Absolut Art

“Girls Wear Red,” by Carly Kuhn
Photo courtesy Absolut Art
“Girls Wear Red,” by Carly Kuhn
Buy now: Girls Wear Red by Carly Kuhn
Price: $230 with white frame

In 1986, pop art icon Andy Warhol was intrigued by relatively unknown brand Absolut’s vodka bottle and created a screenprint of it. The piece inspired Absolut’s tradition to collaborate with artists, including Jean-Michelle Basquiat, David Bowie, and Damien Hirst. In 2015 the company bought art-rental platform Art Remba, and its owner Nahema Mehta became a co-founder of Absolut Art with Marcus Lado, who runs the technical operations of the start-up.

Absolut Art cofounders Marcus Lado and Nahema Mehta

Absolut Art is now an independent extension of the Absolut vodka company. Curators scour the globe for local artists’ work to both help creators find a market and to make affordable art available. (Prices range from $100 to $3,000, with most pieces in the $250 to $600 price point). “Girls Wear Red,” by illustrator and creative director Carly Kuhn, who has collaborated with brands like Prada and Dior, is an archival inkjet print.

2. On-demand massage from Soothe

Book a on your phone and have a masseuse come to you in as little as an hour.
Photo courtesy Soothe
Book a on your phone and have a masseuse come to you in as little as an hour.
Buy now: 60-minute massage
Price: starting at $109

Founder and CEO Merlin Kauffman started Soothe to solve his own problem: As a student at Harvard Business School with a busy travel schedule, he couldn’t find time for a massage. With the on-demand massage service, which he launched in 2013, a massage therapist comes to you. There are 60-, 90- and 125-minute services available.

The venture-backed start-up has grown rapidly. It’s now in 50 cities in the United States, UK, Canada and Australia and there are 10,000 massage therapists on the platform. Customers can book deep tissue, Swedish, sports, and prenatal massages from 8 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.

3. Outdoor Voices unitard

Buy now: Unitard in charcoal or oatmeal
Prices: $95

The founder and CEO of Outdoor Voices, Tyler Haney, grew up in Boulder, Colo., and always lived a very active life: She was an equestrian, competitive hurdler in track and was on the basketball team. After graduating from the Parsons School of Design, where she became fascinated with technical fabrics, she launched Outdoor Voices in 2013. The now Austin-headquartered start-up (it launched in New York City and just moved to Texas) currently has 75 employees and six retail locations.

4. Artisan-made KOIO sneakers

The Primo Castagna sneaker for women made by KOIO.
Photo courtesy KOIO
Buy now: KOIO sneakers in luscious caramel leather
Price: $368

The two German co-founders, Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert, met while getting MBAs at Wharton. One of their first topics of conversation was how prohibitively expensive quality sneakers could be. So the friends decided to produce their own perfect version at an affordable price point by building a direct-to-consumer brand, skipping over the traditional retail middle man.

KOIO cofounders Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert holding their “Game of Thrones” collaboration sneaker.
Photo courtesy HBO
KOIO cofounders Johannes Quodt and Chris Wichert holding their “Game of Thrones” collaboration sneaker.
To do so, they traveled to 34 factories in Italy and settled on one in the village of Civitanova. Each sneaker has 88 individual parts and is made with calf-skin leather, and a pair takes four hours to make. The two founders are savvy marketers, too: KOIO has done collaborations with the likes of with The Beverly Hills Hotel, Game of Thrones and JonBoy. Canvas low-tops start at $148 and leather high-tops start at $298, for both men and women.

5. Keecker robot

Keecker, the home robot
Photo courtesy Keecker
Buy now: Keecker voice-activated home robot
Price: $1790

Designed and engineered by ex-Googler and Paris-based entrepreneur Pierre Lebeau, the Keecker robot turns any surface in your house into a screen.