Top Ten Inventions of 2008
From Model-T’s to Push-up Bras to iPods…every year sports new innovation and the subsequent design and development of new inventions. For hundreds of years, scientific and technological advances have transformed our world, and 2008 was NO exception to the rule.
Remember when the iPhone was considered one of the top inventions of 2007. Well another year has come to a close, so it’s time to review some of the innovative inventions in 2008 that may have slipped passed your radar! From the laboratory to outer space to the kitchen and the workplace, there have been breakthroughs that will change how we interact with each other and the world around us. Here are my picks for the Top 10 Inventions of 2008:
Top Invention #10 – Orbital Internet
Is there anyone out there? Since we are so use to having the Internet accessible to us 24/7, what will happen when we escape into the final frontier and no longer have a connection? Problem solved. Thanks to a new protocol that was recently developed last year, the interplanetary Internet is now a reality. The Bundle Protocol, developed by the Delay-Tolerant Networking Research Group and the Saratoga fast file transfer protocol are being used to refine the hop-by-hop transfers needed for interplanetary connections. Guess ET will no longer need to “phone home” now that he can send an email!
Top Invention #9 – Hulu.com
Just like TV taking the place of radio, Hulu.com might eventually be held responsible for the death of cable. Unlike YouTube, Hulu is the hub for network TV shows and movies from NBC, PBS, Fox and others, including free full episodes of SNL, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and other hits you might have forgotten to TiVo. Untethering TV from that box in your living room, you can now catch your favorite episode of The Office, squirreled away in your cubicle at your office! Since no fees, registration or downloads are required, Hulu is supported by advertising. However, Hulu runs only one-quarter as many ads – two minutes for every 22 minutes of content, versus the eight commercials you normally get on network TV. Happy viewing…just don’t let your boss catch you!
Top Invention #8 – Chevy Volt
Even though the Chevy Volt isn’t running down any assembly lines just yet, this electric car was invented in 2008. The Volt will be powered by electricity stored in a lithium-ion battery pack which after being charged for several hours will be able to travel for about 40 miles without using one drop of crude! Since the majority of Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, the Volt could be the first step in weaning us off gas altogether. However, if you are planning to purchase, best to start saving now, since the bare bones price of $40,000 is what is anticipated when the Volts are available in 2010 at a car dealership near. Let’s hope GM will be able to survive till then!
Top Invention #7 – The Internet of Things
Cisco and Sun recently formed the IP for the Smart Objects Alliance. In layman’s terms, the organization’s focus is to develop a new kind of Internet Network that will allow sensor-enabled physical objects, such as appliances in your home, products in a store, cars on the road – to virtually talk to one another, the exact same way we communicate over the Internet. With this advancement almost every object in your home and work environment will eventually be interconnected with a unique IP address, whereby you will be able to make your coffee, order your groceries and pick out the clothes you wear all with a simple mouse click. Think of the possibilities! How many times have you sat at a traffic light when there was no traffic? With the Internet of Things, your “Knight Rider” car could alert the DOT to change a traffic light from red to green which not only would allow you to get to your destination quicker, but would also eliminate unnecessary CO2 emissions!
Top Invention #6 – Google’s Floating Data Center
Since data centers run on power-hungry servers that eat up excessive amounts of real estate, is it any wonder that the number one search engine in the country would creatively find a way to store their data in a cost-efficient way. Google’s Floating Data Center will soon be found on the high seas where wind turbines and wave-powered generators will provide electricity and ocean breezes will be able to cool the servers. Bottom line for Google… off-shore real estate is essentially free! Presently Google is literally “floating” the idea for the location of such a facility with the US Patent & Trademark Office.
Top Invention #5 – Camera for the Blind
The new Touch Sight Camera now makes it possible for the visually impaired to actually take photographs. As the photographer holds the camera up to his or her forehead, a Braille-like screen makes a raised image of whatever the lens sees. In addition, the camera records three seconds of sound after each image is taken, so that the impaired-vision user can navigate through libraries of saved pictures. Other aspects of picture-taking, while handled differently by the blind are very manageable. For instance the visually-impaired have no problems estimating distances, since their sense of hearing is especially acute. Every rustle of wind in the trees can catch their attention and can be used to judge their proximity to their subject. Other senses come into play as well. The heat of the sun or a lamp in a living room, for example signals a direct source of light.
Top Invention #4 – Green Crude
Until most recently, the perpetual pursuit of petroleum has unfortunately prevented us from looking at alternative sources of fuel. Milton Sommerfeld and Qiang Hu, two researchers at Arizona State University want to change that paradigm. At to that end, they have been exploring the potential that algae has to offer. As a biofuel that is virtually identical to gasoline, minus the carbon, algae actually consumes carbon dioxide as it grows. Unlike the traditional corn or sugarcane products – two plants used for ethanol biofuels – algae can’t be eaten, so using it for fuel doesn’t diminish our food supply. If the cost of production can be reduced, the advantages of algae are two-fold in that it grows much faster and requires less real estate than conventional energy crops.
Top Invention #3 – Bounce:S Hi-tech Running Shoe
Who would have thought a running shoe would have made the TOP TEN list? But the Bounce:S has done just that! Whereas traditional running shoes drain your energy with thick, dense foam, the Bounce: S suspension system, developed by Adidas returns the energy for a more stable and speedy momentum. It features metallic springs that cushion the foot, making your run as smooth as a ride in a high-end sports car and providing you with an extra bounce to your step! It has already been recognized with the "Plus X Award 2008", Europe's biggest technology, sport and lifestyle competition. In addition, the Bounce:S won the German "Red Dot Design Award 2008" for innovative design, that is awarded every year by an international jury made up of well known design experts.
Top Invention #2 – Bionic Hand
We have to hand it to Touch Bionics, for developing what was only imaginable in science fiction…an actual bionic hand! As a multi-articulating appendage, each finger has its own motor. Called the iLimb, the bionic hand has a very impressive strong grip for grasping objects and holding them for long periods of time. Research on the device dates back to the 1960’s, but in 2008, it became a reality. Next up for Touch Bionics is a prosthetic wrist and full bionic arm. Can the Six Million Dollar Man be far behind? Probably not…with inflation, we are probably looking at Six Billion, when all is said and done!
Top Invention #1 – DNA Test called 23andMe
Our number one invention for 2008 has to go to an innovative form of DNA testing. Time Magazine has announced the 50 best inventions of 2008 and its top award goes to a DNA test called 23andMe. Maybe it’s not as well-known as the iPhone, but if 23andMe catches on, it will change how much we know about ourselves, our families, and possibly, about others. Created by Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey, 23andMe is a mail order, self-administered DNA test! For $399, you receive a 23andMe kit containing a funnel and cap. You spit into the funnel, cap it, and return it to the 23andMe laboratory for analysis. In four to six weeks, you will receive an email from the company, letting you know where to find your results online.P.S. The number 23 stands for the 23 pairs of chromosomes found in the human genetic sequence.
The act of inventing appears to be part and parcel of the human condition. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention because inventive minds usually end up creating things that improve our well-being. So what does the future hold for us? Perhaps in 2009 we will develop a "fountain of youth" pill, or a technology that could transform the lives of millions of the world's poor, or a time machine that will blast us back into the past. In any event, whatever is coming at us, you can be sure of one constant… we will never stop inventing!