Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards: 10 Most Brilliant Gadgets Of 2008

Popular Mechanics announced its picks for the 2008 Breakthrough Awards awards in what the publication called The 10 Most Brilliant Gadets of the Year. Here's the list of international winners; you may be surprised at the gadgets on the list.


1. Microsoft Phyotosynth


If you haven't heard about "synthing," you haven't been following what's happening in photographic software. This free downloadable product from Microsoft actually rummages through your still photos, finds the ones you took at the same locale or of the same person, and arranges your shots for you. Wait... The Photosynth software arranges the shots in a browsable 3-D format, so you can see and share photos in 3D! Visit Photosynth for more information.

2. Spore

The much anticipated Sport video game did not disappoint. Actually, Spore has grown and before you know it, Spore will have more episodes than Seinfeld. Available in PC, Mac, Nintendo and mobile applications, Spore players get to populate and take over new universes with each game. Popular Mechanic says the attraction to Spore is that players get to create their own characters to interact with each other, rather than relying on stock characters stored in an animation library. Sound like fun! For more information visit Spore or Amazon .


3. Amazon Kindle


You can read almost any popular book, newspapers from all over the world, or Internet blogs from Amazon's Kindle reader. You can read the Kindle anywhere; it's wireless, but there are no wireless fees. Instead of WiFi, Kindle uses EDVO like the advanced cell phones, so you don't have to search for a hot spot. Carry this 10.3 ounce gadget with you and you'll always have something to read. You can even purchase more reading material directly from the Kindle. Catch more than 5,000 customer reviews on the Amazon Kindle.

4. Livescribe Pulse Smartpen

The Livescribe Smartpen lets you combine voice recording with note-taking, and if you've ever been a student or an interviewer, you know you need both. With PC software (only works with PC right now), a special notepad, and of course the Smartpen, you can take notes with the internal recorder picking up the sound at the same time. When transferring your notes to the PC, you can tap the Smartpen on your notes to get the audio pertinent to those specific notes! Want to read more about it? Visit Livescribe or Amazon.com .

5. Craftsman Nextec Multi-Saw


This 12-volt saw is a "new breed of saw," according to Popular Mechanics gadget pickers. It's both a jigsaw and a reciprocating saw that "gets into tight spots, powers through touch jobs and can operate at 2000 strokes per minute. Learn more about the Craftsman Nextec Multi-Saw at Craftsman.


6. Potenco PCG1 Power Generator

The PCG1 is a power generator for small gadgets like cell phones, GPS devices, and MP3 players. It is powered by human energy, making zero toes on a carbon footprint. Pull the cord for a minute, store the power on the PVG1 NiMh battery and convert your energy into 20 minutes of cell phone talk time. Read more at Potenco, Powering Endless Possibilities.



7. Nissan Around View Monitor

Nissan's new navigation system enables the driver to see the surroundings of his car as he parks... all sides, 360 degrees around your car in one view. Using cameras positioned on all four sides of the car, Nissan's system synthesizes all views into one on the navigation screen. The things that are possible!


8. M-Spector Digital Inspection Camera


If you've ever had to break through a big patch of drywall in your home just to find out what was on the other side, you will love this M-Spector Digital Inspection Camera. The LED-lens is at the end of a three foot cable. Send it into a small hole and rotate it, The lens will pick up what's behind the wall and beam it back to the 2.4 inch LCD. It will help the pros and the DIYers to find leaks, trace wiring, and maybe even see the trail of your TV cable wire! Find out more about it at Milwaukee Tool or buy it on Amazon .

9. Intel Atom Processor

Don't let the size of the above picture fool you, the Intel Atom Processor is not called "Atom" for nothing. It has 47 million transistors on one 26 x 26 millimeter chip! Intel intends to use this little tyke in a new generation of mobile phone-computers and maybe automobiles (just kidding about the cars), for even greater potential. For more information go straight to the Atom at Intel.


10. Caroma Profile Smart Dual Flush Toilet


Here's a great idea for conserving water -- a toilet with a built-in sink. Wash up and then the water gets reused to move waste in the toilet. (Let's hope the flow doesn't get mixed up.) The Caroma toilet is only available in Australia now, but is scheduled to come to North American in 2009. Steve Levenstein has published a whole blog about this eco-friendly toilet; read more about his experience with it here.

Popular Mechanics has short videos of these Brilliant Gadgets of 2008 on its site!

Above photos are from Popular Mechanics.
Sources: Popular Mechanics and company websites (linked above).


Some of the sites we link to are affiliates. We may earn a small commission if you use our links.
Oct 17, 2008
by Anonymous

Carbon Fistprint

Regarding number six:

Guess what? That warm, moist, smelly gas that comes out of your slack mouth when you're trying to think or, like, charge your iPhone is predominantly ...wait for it... CARBON dioxide.

The amount of CO2 you produce would increase in proportion to the amount of energy you expend in charging your goddamn phone. That would make for a non-zero count of, like, carbon toes.

Would the coal burning power plant that generates electricity for your home output more CO2 to generate the same amount of energy? Probably not, since it doesn't have to needlessly heave your beefy arm back and forth and contract all those facial muscles to form a self-satisfied smirk.

Why should I be so worked up over something like this? Here's why: Lack of real critical thinking, not that half-assed Al Gore-felating, the-debate-is-over stuff, but real critical thinking has somehow led your hand into my wallet in order to fund Superman and the Halls of Justice Al Gore and the US federal government in their predictably blunt, clumsy, inefficient, bureaucracy-choked, freedom-killing efforts at "curbing greenhouse emissions". (Tip of the hat to the UK, BTW. We colonists yokels are only just now learning how to surrender liberty to our benevolent leaders.)

Oh yeah, and: Japan has had the fecal faucets (#10) for decades.

Thank you for reading. You may now go back to saving the earth or "leading your community" or whatever.

Oct 28, 2008
by Anonymous

reply to carbon fistprint

anonymous said:

"Would the coal burning power plant that generates electricity for your home output more CO2 to generate the same amount of energy? Probably not, since it doesn't have to needlessly heave your beefy arm back and forth and contract all those facial muscles to form a self-satisfied smirk."

Have you researched this? I dunno, concerning the efficiency of converting coal into kinetic energy versus any biological organism converting food and air into the same amount of kinetic energy, I'd say that animals are far more efficient.

Carbon in gaseous form (particularly carbon dioxide and monoxide) is the stuff that most people are concerned about. I have a suspicion that the carbon that animals expel is mostly in the form of compounds excreted in liquid and solid waste. I'm no scientist, but I have a strong suspicion that if we were to compare all the aspects of a coal burning plant charging a cell phone battery and a human being doing the same through a device, the human would produce a far smaller carbon footprint.

Nov 5, 2008
by Anonymous

The toilet

I lived in Japan from 1983 to 1986, and this type of toilet was everywhere. They are hardly a "new" design or gadget.

Nov 11, 2008
by Anonymous

Carbon Footprint

If you think about it the human powered device will save on energy. Imagine that the person has to lug the coal out the ground, then take it to the power station to burn it, then the electricity generated goes down power lines, which lose some energy as heat to its surroundings before it even gets to the device to be charged.

Compare that to that to heaving "your beefy arm back and forth" and it's fairly obvious which needs fewer resources. Also heaving your arm back and forth may help you shift a few pounds too.

Nov 11, 2008
by Anonymous


Spore? Are you completely shut in from the outside world? Spore was the most disappointing game of 2008. Just put aside all the licensing problems, (3 class action lawsuits? hello?) and take a look at the dumbed down gameplay. And when did a game qualify as a gadget?

Nov 11, 2008
by Anonymous

Spore is a POS

Having spore on this list ruins your credibility. Instead of just reading the pre-launch hype and paid reviews maybe you should have talked to the people who played it.

Nov 11, 2008
by Anonymous

Another thing about that toilet...

Not only have they been in Japan but if they are anything like the Japanese toilets then the sink probably sucks. They are always too shallow and the water comes out too fast so if you use it the water sprays all over the place. Its also ice cold in the winter soooo yea not worth it.

Nov 11, 2008
by Anonymous


the greatest invention of 2008 is a CAN. Thank you, pop mech. Thank you.

Nov 12, 2008
by Anonymous

It Happened at Nextfest

This book is good mimic of gadgets of the future. It takes place somewhere around 2048. You should check it out. www.lulu.com/content/1570109

Nov 13, 2008
by Anonymous

Please hire editors

When articles like this are full of typos, spelling and grammar errors, the qualifications of the writer come into question.
Anyone proof-read this blathering?

Nov 14, 2008
by Anonymous


So now breathing is considered pollution. I know, help the planet and stop doing it.

Nov 14, 2008
by Anonymous


Breathing may expell CO2, but you were probably going to be doing it ANYWAY, so its probably alright.

Nov 14, 2008
by Anonymous

Toilet sink? Eww!

Just what I want: a sink above the toilet. It's bad enough that toothbrushes in the bathroom get microscopic bits of fecal matter on them, now the levels will increase. No thanks.

Nov 14, 2008
by Anonymous

Spore? Wow, your list is

Spore? Wow, your list is ruined.

Nov 14, 2008
by Anonymous

Too bad...

Too bad Popular Mechanics is partly to blame for the conspiracy against cannabis.

Dec 21, 2008
by Anonymous

the toilet

they already have that kind of toilet in japan for a long time ago

Feb 24, 2009
by Anonymous


i cant belive spore made top 2, it really is really boring