Inventions that are just…well…cool

Thursday 25th April 2013

Time Magazine’s article detailing the list of cool inventions for 2012 quite rightly points out that we appear to live in an age where the ‘perfector’ is king.  These are the people that have the necessary consumer focus and drive to take the raw idea of a mouse trap and turn it into a mouse trap that people want enough that they would queue overnight to pick up the latest version.   

Taking nothing away from people like Steve Jobs, who was very good at what he did, every so often I think we have to remind ourselves that in milieu of consumer gadgetry and innovative products that surround us, there was the man, women or group that came up with the core innovation in the first place.
So in no particular order, here is my top 5 from the Time Magazine Top 50 Inventions of 2012.  From the simply cool to the innovations that have the potential to significantly impact on our daily lives; this is my salute to raw ideas and the people that worked to come up with them.   

The Virus Killer

A cure for the common cold? An antiviral called Double-Stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizer (DRACO) in development by MIT has both a hefty name and a potentially hefty impact on medicine.  DRACO triggers early cell death in virus infected cells which in turn shuts down the spread of the virus.  If it fulfills its potential, DRACO could have as big an impact on medicine as the development of antibiotics.


And in another nod to MIT, five students and their professor have come up with a way to make a super slippery surface for liquids and viscous gels.  The plant-based product adds a microscopic slippery coating to almost any material—glass, ceramic, metal or plastic.  Be it a non-stick tomato sauce bottle or a medical tube that will not get blocked, this is a breakthrough technology that will creep into our daily lives before we know it.  Have a look here.

Enable Talk Gloves

Four Ukrainian students have created gloves that allow speech- and hearing-impaired people to communicate with those who do not understand sign language. The gloves are equipped with sensors that recognize sign language and translate it into text on a smart phone, which then converts the text to spoken words.  I think that any idea that enables more people to understand each other deserves a mention

A Dress made of Milk?

Simply because clothes must be my second love after gadgets, this one deserves a mention.  Anke Domaske creates clothes using a material made from sour milk.  Well actually QMilch is a textile fibre made of casein concentrate that is extracted from the sour milk and spun into a yarn.  While textiles from milk proteins are not new, QMilch is the most successful and ecologically friendly attempt to date.   

At Home 3D Printing

Confession time.  This is not on the Times 2012 list and it is more of an ongoing perfection of an existing technology.  However, I have included it as at home 3D printers have the potential to fundamentally shake up manufacturing and retails sectors around the world.  Break a cup?  Instead of going and buying a replacement this technology will eventually let you print the replacement at home.  At this stage the technology is more hype than reality as for anything more than simple plastic objects you almost need an engineering degree and CAD experience to run the printers.  However, 3D printers will invariably become simpler and less expensive to use.  So watch this space in say four to five years.

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