Party tech: Gadgets and apps to upgrade your celebrations
- 2 April 2014
- From the section Technology
It used to be so easy: stick a Dusty Springfield LP on the record player, warm up the lava lamp, poke cocktail sticks into a few dozen cubes of cheese and crack open a bottle of Blue Nun.
Job done, a cracking celebration all but guaranteed.
Some 50 years on, that kind of party planning is likely to obliterate your Facebook Friends list and leave you with a living room laden with uneaten cheddar.
But with karaoke, jelly shots and Trivial Pursuits also starting to feel more than a little passé, how are hosts supposed to ensure their parties feel like they belong to this and not the last millennium?
The BBC asked tech writer Ella Williamson to survey some of the hi-tech options available.
Robots to the Rescue
Fancy an automaton with your cocktail? Or one that will order you a cab when you've had one too many?
From summer 2014, Monsieur - the Artificially Intelligent Robotic Bartender - launches.
The $5,000 (£3,005) tabletop device will sport an Android-powered 10in (25.4cm) touchscreen showcasing 300 cocktail options for party guests to scroll through, which Monsieur will then mix and serve. Alternatively you can skip having to queue and send the machine your order via a smartphone app.
Inside the device sit pumps to hold the alcohol, thermoelectric coolers and sensors, activating functions such as an SMS text when bar stocks are running low.
"Monsieur elevates the social drinking experience by making a variety of great tasting drinks at the touch of a button," says Barry Givens, chief executive of Monsieur.
"Although we make ordering a drink easier, we also take drinking responsibility seriously so the mobile app includes an alert for when blood alcohol level is high and helps you get a cab."
From robotic barman to robotic showman, the Party Bot from Ion caused a buzz at Las Vegas's Consumer Electronics Show in January.
The roaming automaton will incorporate a Bluetooth speaker and a light projector that pulses in time to music.
Looking not dissimilar to R2D2, Ion tells us that the Party Bot is still in the concept stage but should be on sale in time for Christmas 2014.
The rise of the VJ
A party isn't a party without music, and as any DJ knows, playlists created on the fly are the great way to ensure tunes match guests' moods.
The days of requiring bulky record decks to do this are past thanks to smartphone and tablet apps such as Native Instruments' Traktor DJ and Beatronik's DJ Studio 5, which offer virtual turntables.
And for those that still complain about touchscreens lacking tactile buttons, Ion's Scratch 2 Go system offers add-ons that use suction caps to attach to a tablet's display to provide precision pitch, crossfade and scratching controls.
Superstar DJs have long enhanced their beats with video projections featuring fancy graphics and mashed up clips cut together by video jockeys.
In this past this required specialist expensive software, but now amateurs can recreate the effect in their home for a fraction of the cost thanks to apps such as Algoriddim's Vjay and Hexler's TouchViz
Owners can cue, slice, loop, mix and scratch together material from their media collection all in real-time.
They can even add in footage freshly shot using their smart devices' cameras, all while beaming the results via wi-fi to a flatscreen TV.
Let there be Light
"Crowds at parties and live events are no longer waving lighters in the air, it's all mobile phones and LED wristbands" Christopher Megginson, technical coordinator at the University of Leeds tells the BBC.
Lighting firms have made significant tech in-roads into creating a customisable party environment for both small-scale house parties right up to stadium events.
Xylobands, the British radio-controlled LED (light-emitting diode) wristband firm, is one company making such tech in-roads.
The bands are the brainchild of inventor Jason Regler, and have become a favourite for parties, events and concerts thanks to their customisable lighting capability.
Debuting at Coldplay's 2012 world tour, the wristbands were given to audience members and choreographed lighting effects were beamed out by a technician using the firm's software, turning the crowd into an artwork of light.
Later this year Mr Regler tells us that the firm will launch a handheld control system for the Xylobands, looking not unlike a television remote, to make the technology more user-friendly for smaller parties and events.
Bringing the Social to Socialising
Being at the party isn't enough, it's all about being seen to be there.
Facebook invitations, event hashtags, "checking in", playlist-sharing and maintaining a digital conversation long after the lights come up are now all part of the rigmarole.
Social media has made party goers really engage with an event, and even makes people who couldn't make the party feel like they were there" says Justin James, founder of experience-organiser The Bigger Event.
"Coca-Cola Israel's Digital Village is a great example of this".
The drinks firm's annual summer festival brings together about 10,000 young people, each issued with a wristband.
Around the village are Like Points so that when an attendee enjoys something they scan their wristband to automatically share the news on their Facebook wall.
Privacy advocates might weep in despair, but the tech seems to have struck a chord with the event's social networking socialites.