17 Exciting Innovations from 2017
New year, new innovations. But let's take a look back at 17 exciting innovations from 2017 that you might have missed!
1. eSight3 – eSight's guiding principle is that everyone deserves to see, and that's exactly what their eSight 3 glasses are helping to make happen. The eSight 3 glasses are the most significant breakthrough in electronic glasses that allow the legally blind to actually see. Put simply, eSight 3 is an augmented reality headset. There are approximately 253 million people in the world who are legally blind, and eSight 3 can help over 85% of these people! This amazing tech provides mobility, almost no latency and auto-focusses between short, mid and long-range distance. It's still pretty pricey, but the benefits are huge and I expect we'll see a lot more of this tech in the future.
2. Tesla Model 3 – The newest addition to the Tesla line, the Tesla Model 3 began production in 2017 with early customer deliveries towards the end of the year. The latest electric car from Tesla can travel 215 miles on a single charge, 20 miles less than their previous S model but at half the price. Hitting the market at $35,000 its Tesla's most affordable car yet. The Model 3 was designed to be a smaller, simpler and more affordable electric car as well as the safest in its class. There have been some issues in production, with deliveries now estimated within 12-18 months but that hasn't killed the hype; 115,000 customers paid a $1000 deposit before even seeing the car! I expect we'll be seeing Tesla cars on the road a whole lot more this time next year.
3. Raptor Track – Thrill seekers, get ready because there's a new type of rollercoaster on the horizon. The raptor track is the latest innovation in theme park engineering and will transform the way we ride rollercoasters. Current coasters have carriages riding across two tracks, jerking back and forth with every twist and turn; the new raptor track design will see riders coasting at 50 mph astride a 15-inch rail making it feel like your gliding on the tracks themselves. Besides the benefits for the riders, the raptor track is cheaper and more efficient for the engineers building them. Construction on the first raptor track began this year and will be open for amusement park goers from 2018 at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
4. iPhone FaceID – The iPhone is the world's most popular smartphone, but there's a feature it's been missing since its inception that is common amongst its competitors: an edge-to-edge display. That wasn't possible with their Touch-ID fingerprint identity sensor, but it's all changed with the iPhone X. Apple has forgone the Touch-ID in favour of the new FaceID, a face scanning security feature which uses biometric authentication to unlock your phone using your face! The phone projects 30,000 infrared dots onto the users face to confirm or deny access. These scans create a 3D facial map stored on the handset (but inaccessible to Apple) which learns changes in your face over the time, so can identify you with a new haircut, makeup or changes in your beard! Apple says the feature is far more advanced than TouchID and has a higher rate of success – it looks like this may be the future of all smartphones.
5. Do Not Disturb While Driving – Another new smartphone feature from Apple's is the 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode, added to all iPhones with the iOS11 operating system. The number of road accidents caused by people using their phones while driving has grown exponentially with the rise of smartphones, with a third of Britons admitting to using their phone at the wheel. Apple hopes this new feature will help increase road safety, and here's how: when the 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' mode is turned on, the iPhone uses its accelerometer, GPS and WiFi hotspots to detect when you are moving at a speed that indicates driving. When driving is detected the phone switches off notifications, turns the screen black, makes it harder to unlock the phone and can send automatic replies to let people know that you're driving. Hopefully, this new tech is implemented in all smartphones in the future and reduces the number of road accidents caused by mobile phone usage!
6.ThyssenKrupp MULTI – Willy Wonka's great glass elevator is finally a reality thanks to the ThyssenKrupp MULTI elevator. The MULTI is the world's first rope free lift and is designed to move up and down, left and right, lifting the constraints on tall building design imposed by standard elevator infrastructure. Instead of the traditional ropes, these elevators run on magnets and motors on an electromagnetic track. There are huge benefits to the MULTI elevator, like shorter wait times, more capacity and reduced lift weight and mass. Plus, it looks cool! Who hasn't wanted to ride in Wonka's glass elevator? After unveiling the technology at their 248-metre test tower in Rotterdam last year, ThyssenKrupp won a German Design Award which will be awarded in February 2018.
7. Occulus GO – The buzz surrounding Virtual Reality has been steadily growing over the last few years, but the number of active users is still relatively small. That's all going to change with the Oculus Go. The Go headset is Oculus' first standalone, all in one, wireless virtual reality headset, a huge leap forward in VR technology. You don't need to use a smartphone to play and you don't need to hook it up to a PC or console, meaning you can experience VR anywhere. The Go is more affordable than Oculus' previous headsets and with fewer restrictions, it will be much more accessible for buyers. The Oculus Go was unveiled in October and is expected to hit the market early this year.
8. Tindr Smart Photos – If you've ever used a dating app or website, you'll know how difficult it is to choose the right profile picture. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone has different reasons for swiping right. Sometimes you look at a strangers profile and think, why did they choose that as their profile pic when the others are so much better? That's where Tinder Smart Photos come in – a clever little algorithm uses machine learning to determine which of your photos appears to other users based on their swipe history. In the test phase, the number of matches between users rose by 12%. More matches and a great way to see which way of presenting yourself attracts other people the most = win-win for everyone!
9. Bempu – Many new-born deaths from hypothermia can be prevented by early intervention and temperature monitoring techniques, and a Bangalore company has created the perfect solution. The Bempu wristband has a built-in thermometer and continuously measures a baby's temperature. When the newborn's temperature is normal a blue light on the bracelet blinks, and when it drops and the baby gets too cold or starts to enter the first stage of hypothermia, the bracelet sounds an alarm and flashes an orange light to alert the caregiver that they need warmth. At this point, the caregiver can hold the baby to their skin to transmit warmth and if the bracelet continues to beep, it indicates they may have an infection. These fantastic devices have a huge potential to save lives in third world countries where temperature monitoring is not carried out in hospitals. The devices currently cost £22 and are available now.
10. Nintendo Switch – A console and a handheld rolled into one, the Nintendo Switch is the first of its kind and hopes to be the only gaming hardware you need. Nintendo always strives to create a new gaming experience, something never seen or done before. In the past, they've had varied success, but the Switch has been a real triumph. The concept is simple, so simple it's surprising it hasn't been done before; when on the move you can use the Switch as a handheld console much like the Nintendo Gameboy, with extremely high-quality graphics. Then when you get home, plug the Switch into its dock and play like you would on a PlayStation or Xbox. Combining these two experiences into one is a fantastic innovation for gamers and early sales proved it when the Switch sold out globally at its launch.
11. AquaRefining – Lead-acid batteries are used for a number of applications, but mainly in the automotive business for car batteries. In the US alone, 100 million automotive batteries are replaced each year and even though 99% are recycled, the recycling process of smelting old lead into new is fossil fuelled and expensive. In developing nations this process isn't always regulated, leading to negative impacts on the environment and human health. American company Aqua Metals has created a solution for this problem: Aqua Refining. On their website, they state that AquaRefining utilizes a room temperature, closed-loop, water-based process combined with non-toxic, biodegradable organic elements to produce 99.999% pure lead. This is equal to or better than mining, with no need for secondary processing; effectively meeting increasing demand for lead through an environmentally and economically sustainable operation.
12. Bolt Thread Neckties – While it's not quite the technological fantasy you had when watching Spider-Man, California start-up Bolt Threads are about to start a clothing revolution with their engineered synthetic spider silk. Scientists have long studied spider silk due to its incredible properties; it's as strong as steel at a fraction of the weight. Bolt Threads have studied the characteristics of spider DNA and managed to replicate the structure using natural plant proteins and sugars! They're currently producing their Engineered Silk at a commercial scale and are already creating ties made from their synthetic spider silk. The material is far more sustainable than materials like polyester which is made from petroleum, and is renewable because it's made from plants it can be harvested and replanted making. As an added bonus, they look great too! A no-brainer for the eco-conscious trendsetter. The ties were debuted in March 2017 and will hit the market this year.
13. Nasa Mars Insight – Every two years, Earth and Mars align for the shortest journey possible from one planet to the other. After some technical glitches before the 2016 launch, the project is now scheduled to launch in 2018. The Insight rover is different to previous Mars rovers in that it would roam the planet, it will stay in one place. That's for good reason though! The Insight rover will put a probe 16 feet down under the surface, looking at a number of factors to study the history of the Red Planet. The delay in the launch gave NASA time for some significant developments and in November 2017 they successfully completed thermal vacuum testing, making sure the spacecraft is ready for space conditions. The landing site was also selected in 2017, and when launched this year the rover will operate for 728 Earth days or just about time for the 2020 rover to take flight.
14. Warmtone Record Press – Innovation and nostalgia; not normally two words that go hand in hand but it's the perfect way to describe the WarmTone Record Press. Vinyl sales have been growing every year and in 2017 4.1 million vinyl records were sold in the UK alone, the highest number in the post-CD age. The process of creating vinyl records though is outdated and hasn't caught up to demand – until now. The WarmTone Record Press presses records in 24 seconds and it's safer, faster and more reliable than its older counterpart. It's also run on cloud software and iOS controlled. These new machines are covered in sensors to constantly check pressure, temperature and timing, all with the goal of producing a top-quality record with great sound.
15. Google Perspective AI – Google is aiming to end the war against online trolls once and for all with their latest innovation 'Perspective'. Jigsaw, an offshoot of Google has built Perspective, a machine learning system that uses AI to score users comments from 1-100 on how likely they are to be toxic or contain harassing messages. The New York Times contributed millions of their online article comments to train the machine which now helps human users moderate comment sections to remove and hide messages from internet trolls. Google Perspective is helping to make online discussions an abuse-free zone once and for all.
16. Hywind Scotland – In 2017, the world's first floating wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid. Opened in October last year, the wind farm is the first of its kind, 25km off of the coast of Peterhead which is quite close to the shore, but its design means one day they could be much further out. The farm is currently generating enough electricity to power 20,000 homes. Statoil, the company who have made the wind farm a reality have also acquired wind farms in Germany and Brazil that hope to see the same success in 2019.
17. Tarjimly bot – With the internet, we have virtually everything at the tip of our fingers and we can connect with people all over the world. The Tarjimly chatbot by Facebook is a brilliant example of how we can use the internet to make the world a better place. Tarjimly is a bot that connects volunteer translators with refugees and immigrants in dire and urgent need of translation services so that they can communicate with doctors, aid workers and lawyers, to name a few. When you sign up to the bot as a translator, Tarjimly sends you a notification when you have received a translation request. If you're available, the connection is made there and then, and the user can submit their translation requests in a secure and anonymous platform.
2017 was a great year in innovation - let's see what 2018 has in store!