Skip to main content

Channel your inner James Bond with these real-world spy gadgets

Cool spy gadgets
Image used with permission by copyright holder
So you’ve decided to give up your ordinary life — the family, the 401(k), the evening searches for meaning in a consumerist world– for a chance to work as a spy. Working in the shadows offers neither glory nor the promise of a comfortable death in a warm bed, but with the right tools, you just might survive to see your next assignment. Here are some of the essential spy gadgets you’ll need for a life of covert escapades. Do bring each of them back in one piece!

Camera pen

Using a simple but persuasive cover story, you manage to get inside your target’s corporate headquarters/research facility/secret underground lair. It’s your chance to find the truth behind the insidious and far-reaching conspiracy you have been investigating, but how are you to get it on video? Information-gathering is one of the pillars of espionage, but it’s hard to sneak a camera past security. Thankfully, you can hide a camera in any everyday object if you try hard enough, even a small, simple object like a pen. Nobody will take notice of the pen sticking out of your shirt pocket, and no matter your cover story — intrepid reporter, reclusive investor, etc. — chances are it will seem reasonable to have a pen with you. This specific model stores up to 32GB of footage, and you can connect it to a computer via USB.

Camera Drone

The best part of the growing popularity of drones is that nobody will find it suspicious that you, a secret agent, are carrying one. For all they know, you’re just a hobbyist looking to take your new toy for a spin. If, in reality, you’re actually hoping to scout out the country estate of some corrupt politician, looking for points of egress before you infiltrate it to steal some documents, a drone will get the job done. We recommend the DJI Mavic Pro — our favorite drone. The Mavic Pro is equipped with a 4K camera and a three-axis gimbal that allows it to remain stable in flight, so any photos or video it captures will be immaculate. The Mavic Pro’s defining feature is that it folds up into a compact package. If you’re hauling around all the other gadgets on this list for your current mission, a drone that takes up little space is key.

Night vision goggles

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Having scoped out the target’s lair, it’s time to infiltrate. Given the already stringent security, approaching under cover of darkness may be your best bet. You’ll need some way to see in the dark. If you’re working for an agency with a high budget — or if you’re a wealthy, independent operator a la Bruce Wayne (who, while not technically a spy, dabbles in espionage) — you can probably snag yourself a quality set of night vision goggles, which usually cost a couple thousand dollars or more. If you’re spying on a shoestring budget, this night vision monocular should suffice. It’s lightweight, can be adjusted for viewing with either the left or right eye, and has a built-in infrared illuminator for situations where the darkness is particularly stygian.

Unshredder — document recovery software

Sergiy Tryapitsyn/123RF

Rifling through a dumpster outside an evil corporation’s headquarters, you find the files you are looking for. The only problem is that someone — presumably an evil intern — has shredded them. Sweating at the thought of spending days reassembling the strands of paper by hand, you realize there is a better way. Unshredder is software that allows users to reconstruct shredded documents on a computer.

Tracking device

You’ve managed to follow your target on foot, but now they’re stepping into a vehicle. How can you avoid losing them in the tangled streets of the exotic city you’re in? A small, easily concealed tracking device should do the trick. This particular GPS tracker attaches to a car or other object via magnets, and has an IP66 dustproof/waterproofing rating, meaning it should be dust tight and capable of functioning in inclement weather.

Directional microphone

You’ve tracked your target to an upscale Italian restaurant. The host guides them to a table. Already sitting there, you’re shocked to see, is a rising star in the U.S. Senate. How curious. You don’t have a reservation, so you can’t get a table next to them. What to do? With a parabolic microphone, which collects sound waves and then focuses them onto a receiver, you can pick up their conversation from a safe distance. This Sound Shark kit, which plugs into a camera or recording device, should suffice for the amateur eavesdropper. Your only challenge will be appearing inconspicuous while aiming it at your target’s conversation.

Nikon D500 — DSLR camera with a zoom lens

Image used with permission by copyright holder

You’ve caught your targets, both high-profile subjects, in an incriminating situation. Evidence of the meeting will prove useful. A photograph will suffice, but not just any will do. A powerful DSLR camera will take the high-quality photos you need, and the Nikon D500, which takes immaculately detailed shots, is one of the best around. It’s a bulky camera, and while a tiny model may seem more fitting for a covert operative, if anyone notices you taking photos with a camera like this, they’ll just assume you’re an enthusiast — half of effective spying is blending in, after all. Make sure to outfit your camera with a zoom lens, as you’ll likely need to maintain a safe distance from your target.

If spy gadgets seem a bit too tame for you, maybe robotic lawnmowers or luxurious helicopters are more your speed.

Will Nicol
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Nicol is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends. He covers a variety of subjects, particularly emerging technologies, movies…
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more
This bracelet helps you fall asleep faster and sleep longer
woman-in-bed-wearing-twilight-apollo-on-ankle

This content was produced in partnership with Apollo Neuroscience.
Have you been struggling to get the recommended seven hours of sleep? It's always frustrating when you get in bed at a reasonable time, then toss and turn for a hours before you actually sleep. The quality of that sleep is important too. If you're waking up multiple times during the night, you're likely not getting the quality REM cycle sleep that truly rejuvenates your body. If traditional remedies like herbal teas and noise machines just aren't helping, maybe it's time to try a modern solution. Enter the Apollo wearable.

Now we understand being a little skeptical. How can a bracelet on your wrist or ankle affect your sleep patterns? Certainly the answer to a better night's sleep can't be so simple. We considered these same things when we first heard of it. We'll dive deeper into the science behind the Apollo wearable, but suffice it to say that many people have experienced deeper, uninterrupted sleep while wearing one.
A non-conventional approach to better sleep

Read more