A few great finds in Time Magazine’s Best inventions of 2008– this year’s selections include a healthy variety of products, services and concepts– everything from networked toasters to spit collectors. Here are a few highlights:
- 23andMe’s DNA Spit Kit (shown above) won best in show- a predictable but defensible choice (I personally think the LHC should’ve been first). The $400 saliva test, although well designed, is only a small part of what makes 23andMe so impressive. Their back-end analysis and online interface make it super easy to access information about genetic predispositions and ancestry, offering a unique window into what makes us, well, us. Perhaps most impressively, though, they’ll be accumulating all of this information so the more people use it, the richer the information gets. Sweet.
- Bionic Contacts don’t sound too comfortable- and to be honest they don’t really look too friendly either- but they are pretty darn impressive nevertheless. Still a prototype, these bionic contact lenses were developed by University of Washington’s Babak Parviz, and are intended to project an image over the user’s field of vision, allowing access to the projected image without the need to look at a screen. (see below for image)
- Still probably too clunky to be of much use, Max Donelan’s Biomechanical Energy Harvester is still pretty neat. It’s interesting to think of energy in the same way as we think about brownie batter– not letting even the tiniest bit go to waste. That’s where this 3.5 pound, leg-mounted device comes in. By wearing one on each leg, a user could potentially generate 5 watts of power, which isn’t much but it’s better than nothing. Interesting potential applications with development work (OLPC, for example) and also the outdoor-gear market.
- Rounding out the list at 50, Chueh Lee’s TouchSight is the first camera designed specifically for the visually impaired. Rather than displaying images on a typical screen, the TouchSight converts the visual into an embossed, Braille surface on the back of the camera. It also records a few seconds of sound at the same time to assist in navigating through different “images” in playback mode. Never having experienced visual imparity, I wonder what secondary functions this technology could potentially have, and would love to see a concept like this make it to market. (see below for image)