Tech Tools: Make the Office Inspiring, Not Tiring

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Philips Hue (MeetHue.com)

The future of lighting is the LED bulb—the most energy-efficient, colorful advancement since the days of Edison. With Hue ($199.95 for a starter pack), Philips has created an interactive lighting system for homes and small offices. The setup is simple, and using Wi-Fi and apps, you control the color and temperature of your light—anywhere from standard white light to cool blue. You can also set visual alarms—lights can fade in or out at specific times of day, or blink to alert you when emails arrive. At the very least, LED systems are superefficient, so you should see your electricity bills go way down.

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Click and Grow Smart Herb Garden (ClickAndGrow.com)

Turn a windowless, drab office break room into a lush community garden with this $99.95 wonder. You’ll receive pouches of seeds and “smart soil” (which has the perfect mix of nutrients). Add water, and in a short time you’ll have edible plants. The system monitors growing conditions and develops the seeds of up to three herb varieties at a time. The office kitchen will suddenly be overflowing with fresh basil, thyme, lemon balm, chili peppers and more, instantly adding homey vibes and flavor to those Lean Cuisine  lunches.

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Simplehuman 48 Litre Butterfly Sensor Can (SimpleHuman.com)

The office trash can may be one of the more abused receptacles you deal with in a typical day—half-full coffee cups are mixed with leftovers from other people’s breakfast and lunch, and it doesn’t take long for it to get stinky. Simplehuman’s Butterfly garbage can uses carbon to eliminate odors naturally and forms a perfect seal to lock in the funk. Also, its sensor allows touch-free use: Merely wave your hand in front of it and it opens. All this doesn’t come cheap; the trash can is $275. But everyone’s nose will thank you, and the germ freaks in your office will be especially  thrilled.

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Adobe Ink & Slide (Adobe.com)

Adobe’s Ink & Slide ($199.99) is a stylus and slide ruler combo for iPads. It won’t feel just like drawing on paper with a pen, but there’s no denying it’s a unique and rewarding way to sketch. The aluminum stylus senses pressure, allowing graceful, lifelike broad strokes and subtle shading techniques, while the Slide allows perfectly straight lines while sketching. You can save images to the iPad or to Adobe’s cloud storage with the click of a button. Not in a creative field? At the very least you’ll produce excellent  doodles.

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Sony PlayStation 4 (Amazon.com)

Yes, the office is for work. No, we can’t think of a serious professional application for the PS4 that couldn’t be done from, say, a laptop. But we are humans. We need to release stress and have some playtime in order to recharge and work more efficiently. Installing one of these $399 machines in the break room, perhaps with a subtle suggestion of time limits per gaming session, will bring joy to many of your employees’ faces. You might start noticing them staying at work later or staying after work to play with co-workers—and groups that play together and socialize more often benefit from better communication and teamwork. (Even if they’re working together to kill aliens while racing stolen Ferraris through a virtual Los Angeles.)

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LG OLED TV (55EC9300) with Smart+ webOS (Adorama.com)

The HDTV no longer feels new. We’ve been staring at letterbox-shaped screens for some time now, and the advancements these days now seem focused on how to differentiate one design from another. We’d say LG succeeded: The curved OLED television is quite simply stunning, and its looks are at least partly responsible for the $3,499 cost. But the quality of the display itself, which offers some of the most accurate colors and deepest blacks you’ll find on the market—plus the inclusion of webOS, the operating system LG bought from Palm—adds up to a high-quality, easy-to-navigate viewing experience. A design piece that doubles as a TV, this is one surefire way to impress visitors in your lobby or bring people together in the break room.

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