A lot of things were invented this year, but only a handful will shape the future.
These 15 breakthroughs in medicine, transportation, and everyday products have the potential to drastically change their industries and your life.
Inventor: Steve Jobs, Apple
What it is: Lightweight, portable, tablet computer with a touchscreen.
Why it's groundbreaking: The iPad is the first widely used touch-screen tablet and, according to one analyst, it is 'the fastest-selling nonphone gizmo in consumer-electronics history.'
The iPad is so influential, clothes and bags are being customised to carry it easily. Larger than a mobile phone and lighter than a laptop, the iPad is transforming the way people work on the go.
Inventor: Robert Croak
What it is: colourful rubber bands shaped like animals and other objects.
Why it's groundbreaking: Children of the 80's remember oily stickers, tamagotchis, pogs and beanie babies. Children of the 2000's will remember Silly Bandz. Look at the wrist of any elementary school student and you'll find multiple, colourful rubber bracelets. No matter how they're stretched, they always recoil to their original shape.
Silly Bandz were created in 2008 and were sold in Japan before that, but they became a wildly successful trendy accessory this year. According to Entrepreneur.com, 'Silly Bandz products can be found in an estimated 30,000 stores in 15 countries. More than 1 million people from around the world call themselves fans on Facebook. Revenue is expected to reach $200 million or more this year.'
Inventor: Nasser Peyghambarian, University of Arizon College of Optical Sciences
What it is: Three-dimensional images that can be shown in one location and replicated in another in real time -- all without the funny glasses.
Why it's groundbreaking: There's only so cool 3D TVs and movies can be while you have to wear those lame glasses. Can you imagine walking through Time Square and having ads literally jump out at you? This breakthrough will be the future of movies, billboards, theme park rides, and more. It's also how Japan wanted the world to watch the 2022 World Cup; people supposedly would be able to watch holograms of the players at their home stadiums without having to be at the real game.
'This advance brings us a step closer to the ultimate goal of realistic holographic telepresence with high resolution, full colour, human-sized, 3D images that can be sent at video refresh rates from one part of the world to another,' The Daily Mail quotes Peyghambarian.
What it is: Video game console; games are played without a physical remote control. The user is the control and their every motion affects the character on the screen.
Why it's groundbreaking: The Kinect is the first, full-body gaming system that doesn't require a remote. It's so popular, it is on pace to sell 5 million Kinects this holiday season. The Wii was a breakthrough, but the Kinect is an industry game changer.
Inventors: Perry Chen and Yancey Strickler
What it is: A website that helps founders raise money for independent projects by allowing all users to contribute money (even just $1).
Why it's groundbreaking: Kickstarter is the first solid attempt to use the internet for fundraising. Before if entrepreneurs wanted to get funding, they had to reach out to family, friends, angels or venture capitalists. Now, they can hop on Kickstarter, post their idea, and see if it gains traction/support.
Kickstarter created an entirely new form of venture capitalism, combining the social web with fundraising. It also enables anyone to become an investor, even if they can only contribute $1; after all, everyone loves to evaluate other people's ideas.
Just this past week First Round Capital's Charlie O'Donnell tweeted, 'I think it's really interesting that people are essentially using Kickstarter to eliminate inventory/working capital risk.'
Although the site was founded in 2009, it gained more mainstream popularity and helped coin the term 'crowdsource funding' this year. It has generated many success stories like Diaspora.com's 6-figure funding round.
Inventors: Researchers at Charite-University Medicine Berlin
What it is: Stem cell transplant that removes all of the infected HIV cells and replaces them with healthy cells.
Why it's groundbreaking: Although it's met by scepticism from many scientists, the possible HIV cure announced this week is a major scientific breakthrough.
A man with Leukemia and HIV had his entire immune system wiped out and replaced via stem cell transplant. He has been off anti-HIV drugs for three years now with no trace of either the Leukemia or HIV.
If this man really is cured, it serves as 'proof of the concept that our understanding of HIV biology is correct, and that if you eliminate -- not just in theory but in practice -- all of the cells in the body that are producing HIV and replace them with uninfected cells, you have a cure,' says Dr. Michael Saag, professor of medicine and director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham AIDS centre.
It's certainly not perfect -- the procedure has a lot of potentially fatal consequences and would be extremely costly for patients -- but it's certainly a leap in the right direction.
Inventors: Bioengineer and vascular biologist Laura Niklason of Yale University and her colleagues
What it is: Lab-created rat lungs that function at 95% capacity.
Why it's groundbreaking: If you need some sort of transplant, you're out of luck unless an organ donor is in critical condition. That may be on the verge of changing.
This year, scientists successfully reproduced a rat lung that was able to inhale at 95% capacity and exchange carbon-dioxide. According to Time, 'The ultimate goal is to replicate the feat on a larger scale: to replace enough human lung tissue to aid patients with emphysema or lung cancer.'
Inventor: Jack Dorsey
What it is: Credit card swiper that can be attached to a mobile device. Receipts are then emailed to users.
Why it's groundbreaking: Don't you wish street vendors accepted credit cards? Wish no longer. Square enables anyone to swipe their credit card on their mobile device. Receipts are even emailed to inboxes. An invention like Square not only makes paying more convenient for everyone, wherever they are, it also helps small businesses pull in more revenue.
For example, when the Salvation Army decided to allow credit card donations this year, the average amount per person jumped from $2 to $15. Square will enable consumers to spend more conveniently and allow small businesses to reap the benefits.
Inventors: Max Salzberg, Raphael Sofaer, Max Salzberg, Ilya Zhitomirskiy - Diaspora, Dave Morin - Path
What they are: Diaspora is an open-source, distributed social network that is an alternative to Facebook. Path is a personal network mobile application that limits the number of friends you can associate yourself with. Note: these companies are not affiliated.
Why they're groundbreaking: Can you imagine having Facebook when you were in middle school? How many ridiculous, inappropriate things would you have posted then that you'd regret now? Probably a lot, because you wouldn't have been mature enough to think about future employers.
The web may be social now, but wait a few generations and we'll see the repercussions of sharing everything about ourselves online. When that time comes, people will start becoming recluse. Products like Diaspora and Path, which limit your social connections, help ensure that personal information is only shared within a trusted group. They're how social networking should be -- personal, trusted and safe.
Inventor: Berkeley Bionics
What it is: Robotic, prosthetic legs that enable paraplegics to take a few steps.
Why it's groundbreaking: If you watch Glee, you saw Britney get her Christmas miracle last week -- she asked Santa to make her paraplegic boyfriend walk, and he found eLegs under his tree.
Time writes, 'eLegs use artificial intelligence to 'read' the wearer's arm gestures via a set of crutches, simulating a natural human gait. It's the first such device to do so without a tether, and it was inspired by military exoskeletons that soldiers strap on to lift heavy packs.'
Before eLegs, paraplegic patients had no hope of walking, ever. While this contraption certainly doesn't make walking for these patients easy, it does give them a glimmer of hope.
Inventor: Masahiro Hotta, a physicist at Tohoku University in Japan
What it is: A scientist efficiently moved an energy molecule from one location in the universe to another.
Why it's groundbreaking: Obviously we're still a long way off from human teleportation. BUT, this is the first step in that direction.
PopSci writes how it works: 'Entangled particles could be stretched across an infinite amount of space. By inducing an energy change in one of the particles, the other entangled particles would change as well. Eventually, to preserve conservation of energy, the original particle would be destroyed, with its energy passing to the final particle in the chain. Thus, the energy has been teleported from one particle to another.'
Inventor: Xeros Ltd.
What it is: Washing machine that uses tiny nylon beads instead of water to suck up stains.
Why it's groundbreaking: Xeros saves money, the environment, and stained clothes. Their machine uses 90% less water than your current contraption.
Chief executive of Xeros, Bill Westwater, says: 'The net saving in water, detergent and electricity and including the cost of the beads, we calculate, is about a 30% cost saving for the user.'
Company/Inventor: J. Craig Venter
What it is: The first synthetic cell.
Why it's groundbreaking: Time explains the invention and what it could mean for the future: 'After 15 years of painstaking trial and error, managed to reconstruct the genome of a bacterium that successfully 'booted up,' dividing and replicating just like any other bug. Such synthetic life, he hopes, will make it possible to, among other things, generate new forms of man-made biofuel and speed up vaccine production by making it easier to create large amounts of whichever strains of influenza are circulating in a particular season.'
Company/Inventor: MIT aeronautics engineers, including Terrafugia co-founders Carl Dietrich and his wife Anna Mracek Dietrich
What it is: Terrafugia Transition is a flying car that is street-legal and airbag/parachute equipped.
Why it's groundbreaking: It's a flying car -- need we say more? It will certainly innovate door-to-door travelling if it 'takes off.' The retail price is $200,000; Time points out that it costs less than a Lamborghini.
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