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Thread: Inventions Of The Year

  1. #11
    Safety Net

    Nguvu ya Ajabu Mosquito Net

    Inventor: Sumitomo Chemical
    Availability: Now; free from some relief agencies and clinics, or $7 to $8 per net
    To Learn More: acumenfund.org
    Dangerous malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Africa have a new foe: the next-generation Olyset bed net, which is made of a durable plastic weave impregnated with the insecticide permethrin and stays potent for five years. Lighter, cheaper and more colorful than previous versions, the Nguvu ya Ajabu (Swahili for Magic Power) is being manufactured in Tanzania for cost-effective distribution. Also new: curtains and door screens cut from the same material.

  2. #12
    For Your Health

    The Rheo Knee

    Inventors: Ossur, M.I.T.
    Availability: Now, at select clinics
    To Learn More: ossur.com
    U.S. soldiers who return from Iraq missing a leg from the thigh down are getting back on their feet a lot faster these days, thanks to the Rheo Knee. The new prosthetic joint, developed in Iceland, is designed to learn the nuances of an individual's movements and adjust itself. An innovative control module—made up of sensors, a computer chip and software—reacts instantaneously to changes in the wearer's gait, so there's less strain on the hips and back.

    Violight Toothbrush Sanitizer

    Inventor: Violight
    Availability: Now, $49.95
    To Learn More: violight.com
    Here's something nobody wants to think about: bathrooms are a great breeding ground for bacteria, and so are toothbrushes. No, rinsing them doesn't do much to help the situation. Enter the Violight toothbrush sanitizer, a high-tech toothbrush holder. Pop your toothbrush inside (it holds four), push a button, and the Violight bathes it with ultraviolet light, which eliminates 99.9% of germs and bacteria on the brush within 10 min.

    Verisyse Corrective Lens

    Inventor: Jan Worst
    Availability: Now, $3,000 to $4,000 an eye
    To Learn More: visioninfocus.com
    You're sick of wearing glasses, but the LASIK people turned you down. Here's help: the new Verisyse corrective lens, which treats nearsightedness too severe for laser surgery to fix. The lens is implanted between the cornea and the iris through a 6-mm incision. If there are complications (infection, cataracts), it can be removed. A competing implantable lens, the Visian ICL, developed by Staar Surgical, still awaits FDA approval.

    Oral HIV Test

    Inventor: OraSure
    Availability: Now, price set by clinics
    To Learn More: orasure.com
    Getting an HIV test has never been easier. With the new OraQuick Advance, a health professional simply swabs the inside of a person's mouth along the upper and lower gums and then inserts the stick into a vial of solution that tests for antibodies to the HIV-1 and HIV-2 virus strains. Within 20 minutes, the results appear on the stick. (Two reddish-purple lines indicate a positive result.) The OraQuick's accuracy rate: over 99%.

    Vein Contrast Enhancer

    Inventor: Conenhill Biomedics
    Availability: 2005, price not set
    To Learn More: conenhill.com
    Getting stuck with a needle is bad. Feeling like a pincushion while a medic looks for a vein is worse. Thanks to OnTarget, a so-called vein-contrast-enhancement device, doctors will soon be able to navigate your veins with a virtual map. Using a near-infrared camera, OnTarget takes a real-time video image of blood and projects it onto the skin—blood appears dark, and fat and tissue look light—highlighting placement of veins within 0.06 mm.

  3. #13
    Fresh Ideas


    Inventor: HortResearch
    Availability: December
    To Learn More: www.ripesense.com
    Judging the ripeness of fruit has always seemed more art than science. Now a firm in New Zealand has developed a sensor that detects when pears are ripe by analyzing the aromas emitted by the fruit. Attached to the inside of the fruit's plastic wrapping, the sensor goes from red to orange to yellow as the fruit ripens. Sensors for avocados, kiwis, melons and mangoes are in the works.

    Temperature-Sensitive Wine Label

    Inventor: William Grant & Sons
    Importers: The Mar de Frades winery
    Availability: Now, about $16 a bottle
    To Learn More: grantusa.com
    The label on the Mar de Frades 2003 Albariño, a crisp white wine produced on the northwest coast of Spain (it's great paired with seafood), uses thermosensitive ink to let you know when the contents of the bottle are suitably chilled. When the wine registers 52ºF (its optimal serving temperature) or colder, a little blue ship appears on top of the aqua waves.

    Miniature Watermelons

    Inventors: Seminis (Bambino), Syngenta (Pureheart)
    Availability: Year-round, $3 to $5 each
    To Learn More: seminis.com, dulcinea.com
    Behold the Bambino. It looks like a watermelon and tastes like one too, but it's not the hulking mass you've had to lug home from the grocery store for the family picnic. And it took only 10 years to breed. The fruit typically weighs 4 lbs. to 6 lbs., about the size of a large cantaloupe. Seedless, it's sweeter than its larger cousin. The competition: Dulcinea Farms of Ladera Ranch, Calif., grows a similar breed called the Pureheart.

  4. #14
    Cook Smart

    Lock n' Bake Pan

    Inventor: Aneela Rajusth
    Availability: Spring 2005, price not set
    To Learn More: locknbake.com
    It's a cook's nightmare: you make a beautiful cake or lasagna and then struggle so hard to wriggle a piece out of the pan, it looks like a collapsed mess by the time it hits the plate. Enter the Lock n' Bake pan—a 2004 winner in Hammacher Schlemmer's Search for Invention competition—which solves that problem with sides that fold down after baking and a flat, removable tray for neater serving.

  5. #15
    Hot & Cold

    Jetboil Personal Cooking System

    Inventors: Dwight Aspinwall, Perry Dowst
    Availability: Now, $79.95
    To Learn More: jetboil.com
    Smokey Bear would love the Jetboil Personal Cooking System, which cuts the risk of forest fires by allowing campers to prepare soup, pasta, rice and beans—any single-pot dish—quickly and safely. How? The flame is contained within the Jetboil's patented Flux Ring, which channels the heat from a butane burner directly into the vessel. (Fuel canisters sold separately.) Bonus: a neoprene cover insulates the food while protecting campers' fingers from the heat.

    Environmentally Safe Ice Cream Freezer

    Inventor: Steven Garrett
    Availability: Prototype only
    To Learn More: benjerry.com
    When ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's asked a Penn State scientist to build a freezer that won't contribute to global warming, the result was like a frat-house experiment gone right. The apparatus uses sound waves to compress and expand helium, which in turn chills a liquid cooling agent—in this case, vodka. Bizarre, but it works: the stainless-steel canister was used last April to cool pints of Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey at a New York City scoop shop.

  6. #16
    Now Hear This

    The Jawbone

    Inventor: Aliph
    Availability: Now, $150
    To Learn More: jawbone.com
    Poor reception is the curse of all cell phones. While there is little you can do about your carrier's spotty coverage in any given location, you can make it easier for others to hear you by investing in a better headset. The Jawbone has a sensor that rests on your cheekbone and picks up vibrations emanating from your head as you speak. It then uses those data to filter out background noise. You may not notice the difference, but the person on the other end will hear you much better.

  7. #17
    Cutting Edge

    Flower Speaker

    Inventors: Keiji Koga, Hiroshi Shiraki, Let's Corp.
    Availability: Now, only in Japan: $284 for the vase version; $473 for the potted plant
    Imagine flanking your home stereo with birds of paradise rather than a pair of speakers. The Ka-on flower speaker, housed in a vase, below, or pot, uses real plant parts—stems to conduct sound waves, leaves and flowers to serve as cones—to fill a 16-ft. radius with music. Its audio quality is closer to that of a vinyl record than a CD, but for some audiophiles, that's a good thing.


    Inventor: d_skin
    Availability: Now, five for $5.99 or 20 for $19.99
    To Learn More: d-skin.com
    Tired of scratched CDs and DVDs that don't play anymore? d_skin is a clear plastic coating that you can put over a disc to protect it. You leave the cover on all the time, even when you play the disc. The laser from the player simply passes through the cover to read the data it needs. And because the d_skin is so thin—it measures just two-thousandths of an inch—it will work with any player.

    Philips MiraVision Mirror TV

    Inventor: Philips
    Availability: Now, $2,799 to $3,999
    To Learn More: mirrortv@philips.com
    Now that you've got that snazzy LCD TV hanging on your living room wall like a fine work of art, it seems a pity to have it go blank when you turn it off. Philips' MiraVision Mirror TV avoids that by turning into a mirror. A polarized coating on the front of the screen reflects light when the set is off. Available in 17-in. and 23-in. models, the Mirror TV also comes in a split-screen style, left, that's already being used in hotels.

    Lolita, the text-messaging chandelier

    Inventor: Ron Arad
    Availability: Now, $138,435
    To Learn More: swarovskisparkles.com
    When the Swarovski crystal company asked ultramodern furniture designer Ron Arad to create a chandelier last year, he promptly declined, saying, "Crystal is the epitome of kitsch. It is not my planet." This year he changed his mind and created Lolita, the first text-messaging chandelier. Made of 2,100 crystals and 1,050 white LEDs, the 5-ft. spiral displays SMS messages sent by any phone. Of course, you'd need Lolita's number ...

    Monaco V4 Concept Watch

    Inventor: TAG Heuer
    Availability: Prototype only
    To Learn More: tagheuer.com
    Before the Swiss watchmaker Jean François Ruchonnet designed the Monaco V4 concept watch, he lifted the hood of his Maserati, gazed at the engine and thought about the belts. Then he decided to create a similar belt system in miniature to replace the interlocking gears in mechanical watches. Each belt replaces five to six gears, thus simplifying construction. Visible on the underside, at right, the belts are also better at absorbing shock, for a more reliable and accurate timepiece.

  8. #18
    Fire Fighter

    3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid

    Inventor: 3M
    Availability: Now
    To Learn More: tycofireandsecurity.com
    It looks like water. It pours, flows and sloshes like water. But it doesn't get things wet. Its name is 3M Novec 1230 Fire Protection Fluid, and its chemical formula looks like alphabet soup. (It's technically a fluorinated ketone, whatever that means.) But you can dunk a laptop computer in it, and it'll come out bone dry and working fine. That makes this wonder fluid perfect for putting out fires in offices, computer rooms and museums. Just don't try drinking it.

  9. #19
    Light Touch


    Inventor: LiTraCon
    Availability: Now, $1,828 per cu. ft.
    To Learn More: litracon.com
    Mixing glass with cement may seem strange, but that is what Aron Losonczi, a Hungarian architect, has done to create a transparent concrete called LiTraCon. Glass in the form of fiber optics allows light to filter through the material, creating a surreal effect. Available in sheets 2 in. or more wide, LiTraCon is as strong as regular concrete and can be used for walls, flooring or sculpture. It is on display at the National Building Museum in Washington through Jan. 23.

    The Cloud

    Inventor: Monica Förster
    Availability: Now, $5,900
    To Learn More: urbanpeel.com
    Swedish designer Monica Förster says that she often stares at clouds outside her airplane window and wonders what it would be like to step inside one. After learning that cumulus clouds form in the morning, then dissipate at night, she decided to create a nylon "cloud" that could serve as a quiet meeting space by day and collapse at night. Förster's Cloud is 8 ft. tall and 18 ft. long. A fan inside its carrying case inflates it in 3 min. Total weight: 33 lbs.

  10. #20
    Kid Friendly

    Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser

    Inventors: BASF, Procter & Gamble
    Availability: Now, about $4 for four
    To Learn More: mrclean.com
    It used to be that if your kid decided to redecorate the house in crayon, you had two choices: embrace the new mural or repaint. But now there's Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, a block of melamine foam that lets you remove stains and scuff marks swiftly without breaking a sweat. The material's unique chemical makeup makes it a great cleaner. But beware: rub too long or hard on the same spot, and you'll take the shine off a semigloss surface—or worse.

    Stokke Xplory Stroller

    Inventor: Stokke
    Availability: Now, $749
    To Learn More: stokkeusa.com
    Particularly tall parents sick of stooping as they push their toddlers about town will appreciate the new Xplory. Its push bar can be positioned nearly 4 ft. off the ground, and the seat can be raised high to keep the child above the fray. This stroller can be adjusted to accommodate passengers from a newborn to a 40-lb. preschooler; a special latch turns it into a two-wheeler for negotiating stairs. Bonus feature: a zippered sack for groceries.

    Caring Cot

    Inventor: Garry Cho
    Availability: Prototype only
    To Learn More: garrycho@gmail.com
    Sometimes all babies need is a little rocking to fall asleep. The Caring Cot, created by an English industrial designer, is a motorized crib that rocks for about a minute if the baby in it cries for 30 sec. If the baby doesn't stop after about 5 min., a signal is sent to the parents via remote. A sensor goes off if the room gets too hot or cold. And for parents fearful of sudden infant death syndrome, a motion detector indicates if the baby has stopped moving for too long.

    Shloops Shoelace Fastener

    Inventor: Troy Christy
    Availability: Now, $2.99 a pair, in a range of colors
    To Learn More: shloops.com
    Problem: during soccer games, your child often has to bend down to retie her cleats' laces or risk tripping during a critical dribble-shot-score. Solution: Shloops. The patented rubbery tubes, which take mere moments to install, keep shoes securely tied all day, no matter what you're doing. Put them on once and keep them on until your shoes wear out. Whether they offend your fashion sensibilities is a separate issue.

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