Top 10 Inventions Of 'Garage Inventors' Win 2009 Popular Science Awards
Popular Science has announced the 2009 Invention Awards for the top 10 groundbreaking inventions that originated from the minds and perseverance of individual inventors. These inventions did not have big companies behind them with a big research lab and lots of money. You won't see the likes of Apple® or Motorola® or Honda® among this list. Just folks like you and me whose inventions will make a major impact on the way we live, work, learn, play, and even manage intelligence in battle.
1. Sixth Sense: Your World Is Your Interface
Pranav Mistry, and MIT graduate student and his adviser, Pattie Maes, have contrived this fascinating gesture-controlled computer interface that recognizes and responds to hand signals and conducts appropriate searches. Though the SixthSense is some time away from being available, it can already recognize a book placed in front of the camera, retrieve the book's Amazon listing from the Web, and project the book's rating onto the cover of the book!
The SixthSense can also place a watch face on its user's wrist if he needs to know the time. It can place a phone call when its user taps a virtual phone pad in the palm of his hand... Sounding like science fiction yet?
2. Ripsaw: The World's Fastest Tank
Twin brothers, Geoff and Mike Howe, created one of the largest and fastest unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) ever produced, and the U.S. military is impressed enough to have tested the gigantic device. At 60 miles per hour, and the ability to withstand a jump 50 feet in the air, the Ripsaw demanded a total makeover of the traditional tank. Now completed, the Ripsaw can take on the tasks of other UGVs about 40 mph faster. As Mike Howe says, "The Ripsaw doesn't have to avoid obstacles; it drives over them."
The Ripsaw's task is to drive ahead of a convoy to use its six cameras and sensor technology to detect roadside bombs or ambushes and send images and signals to the command center, which can alert the convoy to what's ahead in a timely manner. The Ripsaw will be ready for production this fall. The Howe brothers have 8 patents either awarded or pending on the 'mean machine.'
3. ReWalk: A Robotic Exoskeleton
The inventor of ReWalk, Israeli engineer Amit Goffer, learned the hard way that wheelchair mobility is terribly outdated. In 1997, he broke his neck as the result of a fall, and the wheelchair's limitations were experienced by Goffer first hand. He set to work on a design for a wearable exoskeleten, kind of like a battery powered suit of armor for the lower body.
When he discovered that a whole body device would need too many batteries and be too heavy to be efficient, he decided to build instead a lower body exoskeleten that depended on the use of crutches as well as motors and batteries. Because Goffer can not use his arms to use the crutches, he will not be able to make use of the ReWalk himself.
The ReWalk is more complicated than it looks. Its 44 pounds of off-the-shelf components are controlled by hundreds of algorithms and codes and sensors that all enable standing, sitting, walking, and even climbing stairs. Radi Kaiof, a ReWalk tester had not walked in 20 years, but when he's strapped into the ReWalk, he's a different man.
"I speak eye-to-eye with people, not from the bottom up," he says. "There is one life in a wheelchair, and this is a new life."
4. Rescue Reel: Emergency Escape From Tall Buildings
Kevin Stone an inventor and orthopedic surgeon began working on the Rescue Reel after 9/11 when he vowed to come up with better escape equipment from skyscrapers. Modelled after a fishing reel, the Rescue Reel requires no special knowledge and can take less than a minute from deploying to safety.
A Kevlar cord must be hooked to a secure object or connection point, like between a door and its door frame. Then, after sliding into the one size harness, the escapee would climb out of an open window, and rappel himself down the side of a building. Stone's Rescue Reel has a centrifugal braking system that controls the rate of descent, ensuring a smooth ride down to safety. The Rescue Reel is expected to be available in 2010 for about $1500 and will be able to lower a person to the ground from up to 100 floors.
5. GenShock: Shock Absorbers As A Source Of Vehicle Power
Five guys BS'ing late at night in their dorm room tossed around the idea of a shock absorber that produces power for a vehicle. Next thing you know, the five MIT students -- Shakeel Avadhany, Zack Anderson, Zack Jackowski, Ryan Bavetta and Vladimir Tarasov — had accomplished it, creating an electric motor generator out of a shock absorber by using a hydraulic system.
The diagram on the right shows the basic construct of GenShock: "As the vehicle moves, the shock compresses and its piston pumps fluid to drive a hydraulic motor and an electric-motor generator. The power that's produced lets the engine-driven alternator do less work, saving fuel." (Bland Designs)
Now the GenShock group, having graduated MIT are working with Humvee® on creating its version of the GenShock and they're exploring possibilities with the Office of Naval Research; the Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center; and truck builders such as Navistar® and Mack® Trucks.
6. Audeo: Speech And Voice Synthesizer For Neurological Impairments
Invented by Michael Callahan, who at 17 lost his ability to speak as the result of a skateboarding accident, the Audeo is for others who lose that same very valuable ability. Though fortunately Callahan's voice returned within a few weeks, he will probably never forget the experience of losing control of his speech mechanism.
The Audeo is a speech synthesizer to help those who's neurological pathways from the brain to the lungs and speech muscles are impaired, though the pathways from the brain to the vocal cords are undamaged. The device lifts electrical signals from the cords with three electrodes at the neck, which send the signals to a computer that translates them into audible speech sounding through the computer's speakers.
There is still a bit of time before the Audeo is perfected for sale. Callahan hopes, for example, to be able to use a cell phone as a replacement for the computer to synthesize and amplify the speech.
7. Vascular Pathways: An Easier, Safer Method To Insert IV Catheters
Anyone who's been poked by a medical technician trying to find your veins will appreciate this invention: a no-fail IV! Designed by Israeli physician Amir Belson, the new catheter IV was inspired by a patient of Dr. Belson's, an infant in the pediatric ward with whom he spent an entire work shift while he tried to insert a catheter into the poor child.
In the Vascular Pathways system, once the needle has entered the vein, a guide wire is advanced from the device and a catheter slides over its curlicue shape. Then the catheter slides directly into the vein without hitting the side walls. The needle and guide can then be retracted leaving the catheter in place. The advantages of the Vascular Pathways system are time saving, cost saving, and patient saving -- as the amount of bruising to a patient by misdirected catheters can leave patients bruised, in pain, and without a fresh vein to poke a hole in....
8. Greensulate: Absolutely 100 Percent Green Insulation
An invention we at InventorSpot have covered no fewer that three times, Greensulate is the natural equivalent of plastics used in insulation and Styrofoam used in plastics. Created by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, two Rensselaer Polytech grads. this invention is already being produced and is being trialed in a school.
Greensulate is a mix of mostly mushroom roots which grows fast and clean in agricultural by-products instead of soil. The mix is pressed into the desired form and left to stand 10 to 14 days. Once dried in a 100° oven to stop its growth, Greensulate is ready to install. The whole process takes about two weeks without expensive equipment and no specific growing environment.
Bayer and McIntyre have won a $16,000 award from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, as well as a $700,000 prize at the PICNIC Green Challenge in Amsterdam for Greensulate.
9. Vegawatt: Greasy Spoon Recycling System
From the frying pan into the electricity generator, James Peret has found a way to serve fish and chips at his Dedham, Massachusetts restaurant and heat the place with the used cooking oil. His invention, the Vegawatt is contained in the box Peret is standing in, above. Though Peret doesn't disclose his proprietary secrets, he does share the fact that the 10 to 12 gallons per day of used frying oil does go through extensive filtration before it is poured into the combustion unit.
The Vegawatt processes about 80 gallons of grease a week before it is poured into Peret's modified 15 horsepower diesel generator. The grease fulfills 10 percent of the restaurant's energy needs, translated into a $1,000 a month savings. Peret's new company, Owl Power Company, is now selling the machine to other greasy food restaurants. Ah, fish and chips, sooo good.
10. IronClads: Toxin-Free Strong Hold Fish Lures
Did you know that 25 million pounds of plastic fishing lures are left in U.S. lakes and rivers every year? What that does to the waters is just horrible to think about. The plastic lures that detach from their hooks when they are cast or bitten, disintegrate very slowly in the water releasing harmful phthalates and other petrochemicals.
Inventor Ben Hobbins was also tired of baiting hooks repeatedly in freezing weather when he went fishing, so he set about creating an artificial bait that actually stays on a hook, instead of falling off every time it gets a brush from a passing stick or even just hits the water. Hobbins' biotech background led him to consider using an expandable mesh employed in skin grafting to ensure that the graft stays firmly in place. The result was IronClads number one, strong enough to withstand a 93 pound catch or a fish with serrated teeth.
Inspired by the response he received for the positive environmental impact of his lure, Hobbins then solved the problem of toxicity in his material by developing an equally strong silicone-based version of IronClads that, if torn from the hook, would biodegrade without releasing harmful toxins. Hobbins expects his new IronClads to be available this year.
Awesome inventions! Totally inspiring....