The 14 Most Innovative Gadgets Of All Time

two people playing Xbox 360 kinect

With every new smartphone, computer and chip, we get closer to what will become the standard in the future.

Wireless high-speed Internet everywhere? We’re getting close thanks to LTE.

Cars that drive themselves? Google is working on it. Appliances that sync with your smartphone? Thanks, Nest.

We put together what we think are the best examples of gadgets that brought us into the future or are now showing us the way forward.

Microsoft's Kinect changed the way we play games

The Xbox Kinect quickly became one of the hottest gadgets when it began selling as an accessory for the Xbox 360. And with good reason. For the first time, there was no need to use a controller to play video games. As Microsoft's marketing slogan goes, you are the controller. Now Kinect not only supports motion input, but voice input too.

Why it's innovative: Kinect is just the beginning. Imagine Kinect-like technology coming standard with your TV or gaming consoles. It'll make in-home entertainment much more immersive. The remote control is dead. As the kid in 'Back to the Future: Part 2' said, 'You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy.'

The Walkman helped people listen to music outside of their homes and cars.

The Walkman was one of the first mainstream gadgets ever made. It's introduction in 1979 (or 1980, depending on your region) got people used to the idea of carrying their music with them wherever they went, even when exercising.

Why it's innovative: 30 years before the iPod, the Walkman had people listening to music outside of their homes and cars.

The MakerBot Replicator will help us print everything from car parts to food.

In the Star Trek universe, replicators are machines that can arrange subatomic particles to make almost anything -- food, clothing, even other machines. The MakerBot Replicator is like a very early version of that.

Why it's innovative: While we can't make food from the essence of matter itself just yet, 3D printing in its current form presents an interesting look at what the future might hold. Why wait weeks for that car part to come in the mail when you can make it yourself at home?

You know those old commercials that said, 'You wouldn't steal a car?' when talking about music and video piracy? Well, how will that hold up when you can download the designs for a car and print it out? That's the future we're looking at.

Google Glass is the first wearable heads-up display to grab the public's attention in a big way.

While the idea of a wearable heads-up display has been on the minds of science-fiction nerds and futurists for decades, Google's Glass is the first real gadget to bring the concept to the public's attention in an exciting way.

Why it's innovative: Wearable computers like Google Glass could change our lives in a ridiculous number of ways. Journalism might never be the same. Or concerts. Heck, even porn.

The iPhone and its lack of buttons changed mobile device design forever.

When the first iPhone came out, smartphones looked like this. Android wasn't much different. Notice anything that's changed since then?

Why it's innovative: The iPhone tied together an extremely responsive touchscreen, an exceptional media player, handheld high-speed Internet (with Wi-Fi, since it didn't have 3G at launch), and an attractive form-factor to set the standard for what smartphones look like today.

The Nest is the most advanced thermostat, ever and it's paving the way for smart appliances.

Who knew people would go so crazy over a new thermostat? But that's exactly what happened when the Nest was introduced a few years ago. The Nest was quickly called the first 'Apple-fied' home appliance. It's not difficult to see why. The Nest is a smart device that adjusts your home's temperature based on your habits. It learns when you're out. It learns when you're sleeping. And the design is simply gorgeous.

Why it's innovative: This is a major step towards a truly connected home where your appliances do all the thinking for you. Imagine if all your appliances were as smart as the Nest. It'd not only be convenient, but also save you a ton on your electric bill.

Google's self-driving cars could make the roads safer.

Google has been both mocked and praised for pursuing self-driving cars. But Google is sticking with the project, challenging the geniuses in its super-secret Google X lab to perfect the driverless cars. There are even rumours Google plans to manufacture the cars itself.

Why it's innovative: Once self-driving cars are perfected, the benefits are enormous. It will eliminate safety concerns related to drunk driving, fatigue, or simple driver error.

The iPad made tablets desirable.

Yes, tablet PCs were around before the iPad. But how many people do you know that had one of these?

Why it's innovative: Like the iPhone before it, the iPad set the standard for how every tablet that has come since looks and functions.

Connected TVs and TV boxes are making it easier to cut the cord.

If you want a connected TV, you have a ton of options: Google's Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and a ton of 'Smart TVs' from big-name manufacturers like Samsung and Sony.

Smart TVs give you access to streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Instant, YouTube, you name it.

Why it's innovative: Thanks to smart TVs, we're inching closer and closer to a world where we can watch anything we want, whenever we want, over the web. It's going to take a lot of finagling with content providers and cable companies, but we're getting there.

Solid state drives will make computers faster than ever.

If you own a MacBook Air or one of Intel's derivative Ultrabooks, you've probably noticed how fast it boots up compared to other laptops. That's thanks to the solid state drive. SSDs are flash-based storage options that can transfer your stuff much faster than a traditional spinning hard drive.

The downside? SSDs are really expensive now and the most affordable drives only hold between 128 GB and 256 GB. That's hardly enough space if you want to store a ton of movies and music.

Why it's innovative: Once the price goes down, SSDs will replace traditional hard drives, making computers that much faster. Don't believe us? Check out this video that shows just how fast an iMac can launch apps when running them off a SSD.

Cloud computing will take away the burden of backing up your stuff.

Over the last few years 'the cloud' has creeped its way into our everyday tech vocabulary. Even Apple got on board, naming its new online storage service 'iCloud.' But what is the cloud? Simply put, it's a way to store all your files, photos, music, etc. on a remote server and access it all from the web. Then there are those excellent services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box.net that act as a virtual folder on your desktop, allowing you to get those files from anywhere.

Why it's innovative: As Internet connections get faster and devices get lighter and cheaper, storing stuff in the cloud is the best way to make sure your stuff is backed up. It also saves valuable space on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Voice controlled assistants like Siri will only get smarter and cater to your every need.

Siri isn't exactly true artificial intelligence, but it and services like Google Now are pretty great for what they can do right now. It seems like we're not far off from having something like JARVIS in 'Iron Man.'

Why it's innovative: Siri, and other apps like it, are only the beginning. They're capable of learning and being perfected. It's conceivable that most of your personal devices will have a Siri-like assistant some day.

LTE phones and tablets are a hint at a future where high-speed internet is everywhere

LTE, or Long Term Evolution, is the wireless technology that brings data speeds about as fast as your cable modem to your mobile devices. As the big carriers continue to expand LTE coverage, it's only a matter of time before most urban areas are covered by LTE.

Why it's innovative: One day we're going to laugh when we look back at a time when it was nearly impossible to find high-speed wireless Internet without popping into a coffee shop. Thanks to LTE chips in phones and tablets, we're finally getting a taste of what it's like to be connected almost everywhere we go. LTE isn't the perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction.

Bendable displays are real, and they're coming soon

Bendable touch screen displays may sound like something out of science fiction, but they're very real. In fact, Samsung has already said it plans to implement bendable displays in its devices starting in 2012.

Why it's innovative: You can easily brush off bendable displays as a gimmick that would never work, but that's also what people said about touch screens. Imagine being able to roll up your smartphone or tablet and tuck it away in your pocket or bag. And you thought your iPhone was thin.

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