*A version of this story ran in USA Today and on Today.com*

Every now and again, a new tech tool comes along that’s just so good, I have to set my jaded journalist critiques aside and give credit where credit is due.

That’s more difficult than you might think. Gadget-makers often forget that what most of us really want is a device that works. Few people make this point better than comedian Hasan Minhaj in his recent segment with tech influencer Marques Brownlee for “The Late Show.” The duo picks three random gadgets to test, and not a single one of them works right out of the box.

Hey, I get it! I threw a printer out a third-story window a few years ago, too. It’s super frustrating.

Here are a handful of new gadgets and techy services that rise above the rest for a myriad of reasons, the least of which is that they work right out of the box. These are the same tools and services I showed off on NBC’s “Today Show” last week, as well.

I’ve tried to get my parents to write down their life stories for years. I’ve given them old-fashioned hard-covered books with prompts to help them write down their memories and places to add photos. Last I checked, my mom made one entry in 2008. I’ve even subscribed to services that send them email prompts every week to make it easier. They’re good about doing it for a few weeks, then no matter what, life gets too busy, they forget, and the project gets shelved for another year. Or 10.

Storii, a fairly new service solves most of these problems and engages with our loved ones in a more manageable way.

Storii’s “Record Your Memoir Gift Box” ($10/month or $100 for a year) lets your loved one record responses to prompts – up to three a week over the course of a year – and turns it into an audiobook and even printable memoir.

It’s refreshingly low-tech for anyone who didn’t grow up click-clacking keyboards or tapping screens to tell a tale. Buy the box online and follow a few simple low-tech instructions when it arrives. Then, the service calls up to three times a week on a cellphone or landline and asks automated questions designed to get people to share precious memories in ways they might not have ever thought about before.

You can also call Storii whenever it’s convenient, if that works better. The service records, transcribes and stores it all on a keepsake profile that you − or anyone in your family − can log on to add photos or videos. Typically, people are done with their Storii projects in about a year, and you can download the audiobook or AI-edited transcript anytime.


Homecooked meals you don’t have to cook

If you live in a big city like New York or LA, meal delivery services are a dime a dozen. But it’s pretty slim picking for the rest of us, and often food that does come to your doorstep by way of an app is greasy, salty, cold, or just nowhere near as good as a home cooked meal.

Shef is another one of my absolute favorite new finds here. This site lets you order an incredible meal that gets delivered to your front door for a whole lot less than going out to eat.

The meals are made by a local, food safety-certified cook who lives near you. (We had it last weekend, and it was top-three best Indian food I’ve ever had in my whole entire life.)

There’s a lot of flavor and variation such as Indian, African, Mexican, Creole, Asian-fusion, Southern, and more. It’s all incredibly authentic, fresh, and made as healthy – or as picky – as you need it to be.

For our “Today” segment we sampled several other dishes available in Manhattan that, quite frankly, blew us away including:

  • Korean/Columbian fusion “Loaded” Arepas Kit with Spicy Pork and Arepa De Choclo that came with a signature smoky spicy pork, a few arepitas de choclo, pickled red onions and three homemade sauces – cilantro mayo, gochujang mayo and hogao (serves 1-2, $17).
  • Caribbean Soul Food special “My My My Mini Macaroni Pie”! – baked cheesy heaven ($5).
  • Southwest Indian Chicken Sukka and Neer Dosa, an intensely aromatic dish made with grated coconut and kundapur masala powder ($10).

The other part of this service I like is that it gives home cooks a valid new side hustle. A company spokesperson told me via email that ‘shefs’ keep 75% of each item they sell, plus 100% of tips. The company’s cut covers, “delivery operations, customer service, shef support, marketing, and website operations.” Also of note, 85% of people who work with Shef are women and 80% are people of color, representing nearly 100 countries around the world.

The woman who made our meals, Shef Seema, said she clears six figures a year in Seattle. Before that? She worked at Taco Bell after immigrating to America from the Punjab region of India four years ago but had 35 years of cooking experience prior to making the move.

You can order online or through the Shef app (iOSAndroid), or apply to be a Shef in 11 states across the country at the time of publication, though the list is rapidly growing. The company said there are 12,000 prospective Shefs (representing 200+ cuisines) and 50,000 prospective customers across the country who have signed up to get notified when the service comes to their area.

A few more gadgets worth checking out: 

  • For content creators who want to take their hands-free videos to the next level, check out Pivo Pod Lite ($70), a sort of mini-me version to the Indiegogo/Kickstart smash hit Pivo Pod that raised nearly $2 million dollars during the early days of the pandemic lockdown. This little auto-tracking smartphone is about half the size of a soda can. You can charge it, mount it, pair it with an app, and it will use AI motion tracking to follow you around and keep you in frame. Features include 360-degree-panning, and super fun editing modes in the companion app, like creating clone trails of you jumping as you pass through the screen or letting you “talk” to you in a split screen. BUY IT HERE: $69.99

For gaming on the go, the RiotPWR RP1950 ($70) controller can turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a Lightening-connected mobile gaming console

  • For gaming on the go, the RiotPWR RP1950 ($70) controller can turn your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a Lightning-connected mobile gaming console. Just pop your phone in the adjustable holder, plug it into the console, and set your hot little hands to work on this full-sized controller. It’s pretty much exactly what you use at home − the buttons are in the same place, and they’re wired to remove latency, which is that infernal lag time between pressing a button and the command happening in the game. (This is one of the biggest problems whenever you’re playing games via Bluetooth, so it’s a big deal that this controller fixes it.) It’s compatible with more than 1,200 mobile iOS games as well as cloud services such as Xbox Game Pass, Amazon Luna, Steam and Nvidia GForce Now.

  • If you want a set of earbuds that don’t constantly run out of juice, take a look at the Urbanista Phoenix solar-powered pair ($150). These look and feel a little clunky compared to Apple’s latest Airpods Pro (2nd Gen) or even the Nothing Ear 2, but they have one thing the others don’t − the ability to recharge with the sun. The company claims they’re the world’s first solar-powered earbuds, “with a streamlined charging case integrated with solar cell material.” The continuously recharge themselves in their case − in any natural or even artificial light. The Phoenix earbuds also feature active noise cancellation and their noise-reducing microphones filter out ambient sounds to help you listen to music or make clear calls in a crowd.