All too often, tech takes us away from “living in the moment.” We see it all the time these days; other people sitting with their family or friends at a restaurant and everyone has their nose stuck in their smartphone. This holiday, why not make your apps do more of the work for you? From helping preserve precious moments from the past, to picking a better vintage to go with your Christmas goose, the latest apps can totally save the day.
Save family memories
What better time to save family memories for posterity than when you’re together for the holidays? The Remento app (free, iOS, Android coming soon) captures stories so you can hold on to them forever. Better yet, it helps you point the conversation in the right direction with scientifically-backed conversation prompts. So you won’t have to come right out and ask your relative to recount the time they showered with the turkey to thaw it in time for dinner.
“The best way to foster engaging conversations is to create a safe and inviting space for your family members, both physically and emotionally,” Charlie Green, founder and CEO of Remento, tells me via email. “The conversation starters provide a roadmap for people to lead the conversation into often overlooked areas of someone’s life. And when it comes to great questions, simplicity is the goal.”
I love the prompts because they’re kind of like a shortcut to nostalgia, while still feeling natural. When you record conversations with Remento, they get stored locally on your device, so nobody sees them unless you choose to share them yourself.
Dress up your holiday photos
Giving your holiday photo collections a bit of added style is easiest with PicCollage (free, iOS, Android). With holiday themes and countless layouts and templates, just pick the photos you want to include, try out some different designs, and find one that tickles your holiday fancy. You’ll get seriously professional-looking results in seconds, and you can easily share them on social media, send them to friends, or print them out.
Of course, with so much talk about the metaverse and augmented reality lately, you know we’re getting close to a time when reliving memories means strapping on a headset. We’re not there yet, but I’ve been experimenting with an app called Polycam (free, iOS, Android) that offers a little bit of a preview into what that world might look like.
The app uses high-powered cameras and sensors on modern iPhones and Android smartphones to capture objects and even entire rooms in 3D. Designers use it to grab real-world objects and create 3D models of them, but the rest of us can use it to capture 3D versions of whatever we want, like a particularly perfect holiday dinner spread or a dessert that you want to keep with you forever.
It’s seriously mind-blowing, and it’s so cool to be able to revisit these scenes in full 3D like they’re living right inside your phone.
Make Alexa your sous-chef
Cooking the perfect turkey or holiday ham is no small feat, and once guests sink their teeth into your magical main course, everyone’s sure to want the recipe!
Recipe geeks all use Paprika — no, not the spice, the app — to keep track of their DIY successes. Paprika ($4.99, iOS, Android) has a simple design but is packed with food-crafting power. It helps you create grocery lists for the recipes you like, plan meals well in advance and save recipes from your favorite sites, so you don’t have to scribble them down or copy and paste them into a notepad app.
For big gatherings, the app automatically adjusts ingredients to match the number of servings you need and converts measurements with a tap. It’ll even walk you through a recipe step-by-step, like Google Maps walks you through the directions to a destination, making it the ultimate holiday cooking companion.
Have no idea what to make? Simply say, “Alexa, find holiday recipes” and scroll through the options on Echo Show devices for inspiration. Once you select the recipe you want to cook in your home, Alexa can help you order the ingredients or walk you through the recipe, step-by-step.
A sommelier in your pocket
Wine is always a hot topic when friends and family gather. Guests bring it to dinner, we give it as a gift, and everyone wants to know where it came from, and what pairs best with it.
Vivino (iOS, Android) is a free wine exploration and education app that doubles as the world’s most convenient wine shop. When party planning, it’s great to match wines with specific foods, and the expert reviews keep you from spending big bucks on something that tastes like vinegar.
Just take a snapshot of the label, and the app finds all the relevant info. You can even buy wine right from the app, or take it with you to your local wine shop and get the inside scoop on everything on the shelf. It’s like having a tiny sommelier in your pocket, and you’ll score major points with your guests.
If mixed drinks are more your style (and who can blame you?), the Cocktail Party app ($3.99, iOS, Android) is going to be your best friend once thirsty friends and family start lining up at your door. It’s not particularly flashy, but the clean interface is incredibly easy to use and powerful, too.
You can search for drinks based on name, and style, or just tell the app what ingredients you have on hand, and it’ll come up with drinks that match, saving you a trip to the store. New drinks are being added all the time, so there’s always something fresh to try.