Thursday, January 2, 2014

10 of the Most Innovative Inventions in 2013

by Mary Faller

Individuals all over the world will ring in 2014 with traditions, customs, and new beginnings. Inventions of years past will aid in preparing delightful food items, illuminate the sky in celebration, and transport individuals safely to their destinations (among other things). Invention ideas generate growth in the economy and help its members in a number of positive ways. Inventions such as the car, modern medicine, the microwave, even “as seen on TV” inventions that seem silly have changed the way people live their daily lives. Inventions improve the way we think, perform, and complete daily tasks. 

As time goes on, these innovative inventions can be taken for granted. After a while, we forget what it was like to prepare a quick snack without a microwave, get from point A to point B without the convenience of a car, and watch the famous ball drop at midnight without the flat screen high-definition television conveniently located in the center of the living room. Just like years prior, 2013 has brought new innovations that could change the way we do things in our everyday lives. Here is a look at the ten most innovative invention ideas of 2013.



Every few months it seems electronics manufacturers introduce newer and improved cellular telephone models, transforming flip phones and the original CellOne phone into museum artifacts. Dutch designer, Dave Hakkens believed there had to be a better way to upgrade a cellular phone without replacing the entire device. He introduced Phonebloks which is a Lego-like smartphone with detachable components on its front and back so that elements such as the processor and camera could be easily upgraded without replacing the entire phone. All components of the Phonebloks phone are connected to a pegboard-style base unit that features a front-mounted screen that can also be detached and replaced as necessary. 

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Hakkens believed with the help of this innovative phone, electronic device waste could be considerably reduced. “I wanted to have a phone where I could keep the good parts and replace the bad ones,” he said. “Although the world of mobile phones is insanely complex I wanted to see if I could bring any help.” Of course, Phonebloks is still in the conceptual stage of development and Hakkens is working on bringing his idea to realization. All of the great inventions derived from a single idea.


Shadow Dream Smartphone App

Dreams are a way of working through thoughts and feelings during sleep. Dream dictionaries and Freudian theories allow individuals to interpret the images in their dreams. However, because dreams are most active during the REM sleep cycle, oftentimes individuals do not remember such dreams. A new free application for smartphones called the “Shadow” assists individuals with recording dreams and dream imagery that occurs in the hypnotic sleep state. 

Project founder, Hunter Lee Soik, started working for an iPad applications company and came up with the idea for the Shadow in 2011. According to an interview from The New Yorker, Soik explained how the Shadow works for capturing dreams in an archive-like application. “The application is an alarm clock. Modern alarm clocks destroy dreams, because they rip you through your hypnopompic sleep state, the state between sleeping and waking. The idea is to come out slowly---we gradually increase the vibration and the volume. When you shut off the alarm, the app records. You speak or text a dream. If you speak, it will transcribe the audio, then we’ll run an algorithm through the dream and pull out all the keywords. ‘Horses,’ ‘airplanes,’ ‘red cars,’ ‘running,’ ‘jumping.’ Then we’ll push the whole dream through a big data cloud, so that we can anonymously organize the global data. It will tell you the sex of the dreamer, and where he or she is. The Japanese sleep less but do they dream less? What do women in Stockholm dream about in wintertime?” This application would help individuals record dreams and dream imagery to learn from the thoughts they have while in a sleep state and perhaps learn about others’ dreams from all over the world. 


Neurocam Mind Reading Camera

It used to be that a person needed a magic crystal ball or clairvoyant capabilities to read another person’s mind. That is, until the introduction of the Neurocam. This innovative invention is a wearable camera system capable of detecting the wearer’s emotions. According to Neurowear, the company who created the Neurocam, this device automatically records moments of interest based on an analysis of the wearer’s brainwaves. Developer Professor Mitsukura of Keio University explained that the analytics algorithm is based on sensitivity of interests and likes in a range of 0 to 100. According to the Neurowear website, “The smartphone camera is triggered to automatically record and save 5 second GIF (graphical interchange format) clips of scenes when the interest value exceeds 60. The scene is saved together with timestamp and location and can be replayed in the album function.

Scenes can also be taken manually under the ‘manual mode’. It can also be shared socially on Facebook. The hardware is a combination of Neurosky’s Mind Wave Mobile and a new customized brainwave sensor with the newest BMD chip. It transforms the smartphone into brainwave analysis device + camera with the smartphone screen displaying scenes of interest as they are being recorded.” 


Tracking Method like Harry Potter Marauder's Map

The wizarding world of Harry Potter makes its viewers/readers want to be transformed into the magic and wonder that was created by J.K. Rowlings. Among the many magnificent articles of magic in the Harry Potter series, the Marauder’s map that reveals everyone’s whereabouts in Hogwarts school of wizardry and witchcraft may be the most attainable thanks to a team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon. A network of video cameras tracking human movement using mathematical models, reveals the location of many individuals at one time. 

Carnegie Mellon researchers Alexander Hauptmann, Shoou-I Yu and Yi Yang developed the method for tracking multiple individuals within a complex, indoor setting using a network of video cameras. Some would say that this tracking method is too invasive and borderline creepy, but the researchers hope the camera footage could be used for good. Primarily, the idea came about by using camera footage from a nursing home to maintain patient safety and health monitoring. 

According to an article in the Huffington Post, Hauptmann reported, “The goal is not to be Big Brother, but to alert the caregivers of subtle changes in activity levels or behaviors that indicate a change of health status.” Of course, like any other innovation, there will be inevitability that someone will use it for evil. 


Smart Wheels Bicycle

In a world where global warming and pollution is a major threat, bicycling is an easy and healthy solution. However, individuals would much rather choose driving a comfortable air conditioned car rather than sweating and working hard to pedal a bicycle to work daily. The introduction of the FlyKly Smart Wheelkickstarter aims to promote biking as a transportation alternative by making the whole process much easier. 

The Smart Wheel is a pedal assist which allows bicyclists to more effortlessly drive their bikes. A small motor turns on when the biker starts pedaling and begins to accelerate to a desired speed. It stops when the cyclist stops. This bicycle accessory saves the user time by transporting the cyclist to their destination faster without heavy breathing and excessive sweat. Because the Smart Wheel is accessed via a smartphone, locking it is as simple as pressing a button on the touchscreen of a cellular telephone. The application also tracks the wheel if it were stolen. 


Protocell Running Shoes

Running shoes have changed over the years with added padding and support, to feet-shaped shoes with barely any support at all. But like all shoes, the materials used in their production break down over time and this footwear must be replaced. A designer and biotech researcher by the name of Shamess Aden unveiled a product concept that would prevent runners from ever needing to replace their running shoes. 

This product concept is a living, breathing 3D printed shoe using protocells. Protocells are molecules that are not alive but can be combined to create living organisms. This new material would conform to a wearer’s foot similar to a second skin, molding to the arches and bones of the foot, providing much more support. According to an interview, Aden explained that, “The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure. As you’re running on different grounds and textures it’s able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.” After a run, this shoe would need basic upkeep with care similar to a basic houseplant. 

Upkeep would consist of placing the shoes in a jar willed with the living liquid protocell which would recharge and revive the organisms in the shoes, making them like a brand new pair after each submersion in liquid. According to Aden, the technology is nearly available but will most likely not become a reality until 2050.


Orbsys Recycling Shower

Indiviuals are always looking for ways to save money and become less wasteful especially with household bills like electric, gas, and water. The introduction of the OrbSys shower combines the idea of astronauts recycling their fresh water supply. Swedish industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi created the concept of a high-tech purification system that recycles water while the user bathed. This shower system works on a closed loop system where hot water falls from the tap to the drain but then instantly becomes purified drinking water when it is pumped back out of the shower head. Because this process is instantaneous, the water remains hot, needing reheated only slightly. 

The OrbSys Shower saves more than 90% in water usage and 80% in energy every time an individual takes a shower. In addition to the energy savings, the water becomes more pure each time it passes through the system. According to Mahdjoubi, “With my shower, which is constantly recycling water, you’d only use about 5 liters of water for a 10 minute shower … In a regular shower you would use 150 liters of water – 30 times as much.” According to research, this would save American households $1351 a year on energy bills. This technology could be developed to a greater scale for purifying drinking water to third world countries.


Atlas Humanoid Robot

Natural disasters occur and first responders often risk their lives to retrieve victims of fires, floods, explosions, tsunamis, etc. The introduction of the Atlas humanoid robot could save the lives of first response personnel by saving victims from unhealthy conditions too risky for human beings to enter into. This robot, standing 6 foot, 2 inches tall and weighing 330 pounds, has the ability to walk, lift heavy objects, replace its hands with customized attachments and complete tasks without direct supervision from an actual human being. 

The Atlas is equipped with an onboard computer and plenty of sensors to complete designated tasks. In December, the Atlas went through various tests to determine whether or not the robot was ready for the field. These robots went through a series of disaster scenarios and had to navigate through rough terrain on foot, move debris, climb a ladder, and dear down doors or walls to reach victims. There are many more developments that need to be completed before the Atlas is ready to answer the call of a first responder. 


Argus II for the Blind

Prosthetic devices have come a long way with delicate nerve endings to allow amputees an enhanced quality of life. Until recently, blindness could not be corrected, that is until the introduction of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System. This prosthesis has been available in Europe since 2011, thanks to creators from the California-based company Second Sight Medical Products. This device “functions as an artificial retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye that collects image information and passes it along to the brain through the optic nerve. (It’s often considered similar to the film in a camera.) 

People with a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa --- about 100,000 Americans – lose the retina’s light-sensivie cells. It’s here that the Argus II takes over.” This prosthetic device is surgically implanted into the eye where it contains an antenna and electronic components that work with a specially designed exterior pair of eyeglasses. The glasses contain a camera that sends images via the transplant unit. This ocular system is available for adults 25 and over, but is very expensive retailing at a whopping $144,000. Medicare covers the costs and it is believed that other insurance providers will follow suite. 


Google Glass

Technology continues to grow. In no time at all Star Trek-like technology will come into fruition. One of the most anticipated technological innovations is Google Glass, a pair of eyeglasses that bring the world of technology literally in your face---as if the world needed more people distracted by technology. Google Glass is a wearable computer that interacts with your voice commands. For example, if the wearer wished to capture the image they were looking at, they could simply project a voice command to capture the image. Turn-by-turn directions could pop up right in the wearer’s view. Its capabilities are immense with integrated medical technology, up-to-date news, augmented reality, hands-free photography and video capture, and so much more. 

Google Glass truthfully is an innovative invention that could make life easier in years to come, but it currently is not available to just anyone. Google offers the Glass only through its Explorer program, which requires a compelling reason and $1,500 for a tester model. It is projected that the mass-produced version will be available next year. 

This and other innovative inventions could change the world in 2014 and make history. Until then, so long 2013, it’s been a heck of a ride! 

Phonebloksis a Stunning Idea for a Phone that Comes Apart Like Legos,” The Huffington, September 30, 2013.
DreamOn,” The New, October 28, 2013.


  1. These are some really awesome innovations. My favorite one has to be Neurocam. I will definitely buy this if I have the opportunity.

  2. That humanoid robot looks really awesome. It can definitely make life easier for the rescuers.

    Hopefully these innovations will gain in popularity soon.

    1. I have no doubt that these innovations will eventually become mainstream. Only question is, how long will it take?

  3. I have heard a lot about Google Glass, but never really knew much about it. If I am not wrong, this product currently is quite expensive.

    I would love to buy a Google Glass, once the price goes down a bit.

  4. So many promising inventions and tools to use. I wish I had the full on knowledge to make something like these. I have some ideas for inventions, but they don't even come close to anything on this list. But hey, it's not about how powerful the invention is, it's what you can do with it. So I'll give it a try.

  5. The mind reading camera to me sounds so radical. I would love to give that a try. I'm a bit iffy with the Google Glass business. I mean it sounds cool, but they're charging so much for it that I just don't see myself even bothering with purchasing it anytime in the future. Maybe if I can get a plan like with my phone I'll get it.