Every year we make new inventions which in most cases change our lives for the better. This year is no exception and there are so many interesting inventions and innovative products.
We tried to arrange the Top 10 Inventions of 2014. Here you can read about hoverboards, intelligent space craft, edible food wrappers, and much much more.
The Real-Life Hoverboard
Hendo Hoverboard / $10,000
Preorder at hendohover.com
The hoverboard—a type of skateboard that levitates like a magic carpet—had been a pipe dream since its fictional debut in 1989’sBack to the Future Part II. Now California-based tech firm Hendo has built the real thing.
Granted, there are caveats. Hendo’s hoverboard can float only an inch or so above the ground, and even then only over conductive material like copper or aluminum. Just 10 are being made to order (so far). And battery life is 15 minutes—barely enough time to zoom past your enemies à la Marty McFly.
But the technology that powers it could be revolutionary. Using the $450,000-plus it raised on Kickstarter, Hendo founders Jill and Greg Henderson plan to develop magnetic “hovering” tech to stabilize buildings during earthquakes, protect valuable works of art and more. “The hoverboard is the first step to bringing this technology to the world,” says Greg.
The Supersmart Spacecraft
Developed by the Indian Space Research Organization
Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The U.S. didn’t, Russia didn’t, the Europeans didn’t. But on Sept. 24, India did. That’s when the Mangalyaan (Mars craft in Hindi) went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved. Building the craft cost India just $74 million, less than the budget for the film Gravity. At that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition. More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country’s space program—and for science in general.
In development for Toyota cars, Intel PCs and more
We already have wireless Internet and wireless phones. Why, then, are everyday appliances still shackled to the wall? To be sure, there are a few power-mat chargers for small gadgets like phones. But WiTricity, based in Watertown, Mass., is thinking big. Its technology—involving a plug-in coil that creates a magnetic field, which in turn powers objects as far away as 8 ft. (2.4 m)—has been tested on Toyota electric cars (with charging mats), Intel PCs (with charging pads) and more. Within 10 years, says CEO Alex Gruzen, rooms could be wired so that all appliances—lamps, TVs, stereos—pull power from a central charging base.
A machine that can build any object. It sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, but thanks to the rise of 3-D printers—devices that can build objects from digital blueprints, usually by layering plastic or other materials—it is rapidly becoming reality.
That’s a boon for consumers and corporations alike. In the past year alone, middle-school students have 3-D-printed stock cars for physics lessons, scientists have 3-D-printed tissues for human organs, and GE has used 3-D printing to improve the efficiency of its jet engines. “This is one of those technologies that literally touches everything we do,” says Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, whose 3-D printers produce candy (as shown above) and musical instruments, among other objects.
The Wheel that Gives Bikers a Boost
Copenhagen Wheel / $799
Preorder at superpedestrian.com (to ship spring 2015)
We know that biking is good for us and good for the environment. But getting around on a bicycle can seem daunting, especially in a large city with a hilly terrain. To lessen that burden, Cambridge, Mass.–based Superpedestrian has developed the Copenhagen Wheel, a standard-size wheel—it can be attached to the back of most bicycles—that boasts a rechargeable, battery-powered motor. Depending on rider preferences, entered through a smartphone app, the motor can kick in power throughout the ride or just on hills. Sensors also track road conditions, air temperature and potholes, so cyclists can share real-time information about best routes. “Cities are reaching a limit in terms of how many more cars they can accept,” says Assaf Biderman, founder and CEO of Superpedestrian; indeed, studies like those from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute suggest that the U.S. has reached “peak car.” The Copenhagen Wheel, which has raised more than $6 million (partially through crowdfunding), may help make cycling a more viable alternative.
Wrappers You Can Eat
Wikipearls / $4 for a pack of two
Available at select Whole Foods
“Edible wrapper” sounds like an oxymoron—unless you’re WikiFoods founder David Edwards, who has devised a way to encase yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more in shells strong enough to hold their shape (in water, heat and cold) until you take your first bite. The secret lies in science: Each shell is made of particles of dried fruit or other natural substances that are tiny enough to be electrically attracted to one another; they are combined with calcium and sugar to strengthen the form. Though the frozen-yogurt Pearls—the first WikiFoods product to reach mainstream stores, thanks to deals with Stonyfield and Whole Foods—are still packaged in biodegradable bags of two, Edwards’ ultimate goal is to sell them à la carte, like apples or peanuts, in an effort to reduce the world’s packaging waste.
A Reactor that Could Realize Nuclear Fusion
High-beta fusion reactor
Developed by Lockheed Martin
Nuclear fusion—the production of energy from the fusion of hydrogen nuclei—has always been the holy grail of energy: it’s endlessly productive and largely clean—and so far, it’s remained elusive. But in October, Lockheed Martin said it had achieved a technological breakthrough that will enable it to make compact fusion reactors small enough to fit on the back of a truck within a decade. The design uses “magnetic mirror confinement” to control the reaction. Absent further details on how it works, some outside scientists are skeptical. But if Lockheed really can produce a workable fusion reactor, the world of energy may never be the same.
The Cooler that Powers Your Party
Coolest Cooler / $399
Preorder at coolest.com (to ship in early 2015)
For more than 60 years, coolers have done a fine job putting party refreshments on ice. But that wasn’t good enough for Ryan Grepper. “We wanted the cooler to be a place where people gather—to have all the things that make a space somewhere you’d want to hang out,” says the former medical sales rep.
The result is the world’s smartest all-purpose party starter. It stores food and drinks, sure. But it also touts a blender (“for vodkaritas,” Grepper offers), an LED lid light (“to see if you’re reaching for beer or Clamato juice”), a USB charger (“so nobody’s phone dies”), a Bluetooth speaker (for tunes) and big wheels designed to navigate many terrains (beach, parking lot). “I just want to make the coolest cooler out there,” says Grepper. Hence the name: Coolest Cooler.
Since Grepper’s prototype first appeared on Kickstarter earlier this year, roughly 63,000 backers have contributed $13.3 million to make it a reality. It’s now the most funded creation in the site’s history, besting hits like the Pebble smart watch and Oculus Rift’s virtual-reality glasses.
Logbar Inc’s Ring isn’t just cool by 2014 standards; it’s one of the coolest inventions ever. It’s an actual ring that you wear on your index finger that can recognize the motions of your finger and send texts, make payments, control the TV, lights, even curtains — basically anything that is compatible with its technology. You can even program your own symbols into this new gadget. There seems to be a lot you can do with it and not much you can’t, not to mention it’s a boss-looking ring.
Imagine not worrying about losing the charge on your phone, and being able to go anywhere without a charger. Well with Solepower tech’s new invention, the Solepower, that’s possible. The Solepower is a small device that fits into your shoe and gets its energy from you as you walk. Solepower charges a small battery, and you can use that energy to charge your phone. Solepower is perfect for many purposes including hiking, traveling, and for people in less advantaged countries who may not have consistent access to electricity.
What do you think? Is there some invention that we miss?
Tell us in comments.