7 Best Inventions of 2017

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As the world took another 365 days journey to come out better and smarter, here’s a look at some of the top inventions that soared high and made it to the list of best inventions of… (The featured image  is a collage created from images that were sourced in clockwise from top left order from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glasses_for_the_blind.jpghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2005_091112-28rim0051_compressed.JPG, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sleeping_pods_Helsinki-Vantaa_Airport.JPG, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryan_fung/2178393412, http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Face-Call-Gesture-Communication-Female-Contact-15924https://pixabay.com/en/vr-virtual-reality-glasses-911031/ )

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As the world took another 365 days journey to come out better and smarter, here’s a look at some of the top inventions that soared high and made it to the list of best inventions of 2017:

VR That Can Be Tasted

From audio-visual experiences, VR goes beyond and is soon to touch other senses, including taste. You read that right. Researchers have developed face electrodes to simulate the experience of tasting and chewing in virtual reality. Nimesha Ranasinghe, a researcher at University of Singapore, has done significant progress in emulating fundamental tastes in VR. Nimesha has published multiple articles explaining his findings, for instance, Tongue Mounted Interface for Digitally Actuating the Sense of Taste, Simulating the sensation of taste for immersive experiences, Electronic taste stimulation. Researchers at the University of Tokyo (Arinobu Niijima and Takefumi Ogawa) have created Electric Food Texture System that uses external electrodes to stimulate jaw muscle so as to make it contract or stretch to emulate the hardness of the food. Depending on the frequency and amplitude of this stimulation, we can emulate various consistencies of food. For instance, they have tried eating cookies with the device on, and the cookies seemed like gummy bears. The university has published an article on Multi-sensorial virtual reality and augmented human food interaction in late 2016. Further, Project Nourished advocates using virtual reality headsets to create a new kind of eating experience.

3D Printed Airless Tires Made of Recycled Matter

Michelin — the company whose chubby white tire man logo is as loved as its good quality tires — is stretching out one huge arm towards the future with its new visionary tire concept that combines tire and wheel into one 3D-printed design. Not only is the tire made entirely of recycled biodegradable material, it can also be recycled at the end of its life, which is expected to be exceedingly long. The tire never needs to be replaced, but rather can just have “tread” added to it by 3D printing. What makes it even more attractive is that the tire is a smart tire, which can constantly send usage information to a smartphone app which would allow the driver to know when the treads need to be updated.

Airport Sleeping Pods

It’s a common sight and plight – be it a missed connecting flight, a thunderstorm or a long layover. Weary travelers are often obliged to sleep or take a nap on uncomfortable back-cracking chairs of airport terminals. Even business class lounges are often not the right idea of comfort as travelers contort themselves into uncomfortable shapes and postures to get a shuteye.

There are a few companies that are finally collaborating with airports to include better ways to accommodate unlucky passengers by introducing a new generation of sleeping capsules and pods. Sleeping pods are enclosed beds or an improved version of a chair that can be flattened out. Some market participants have even modified pods into luxury rooms to be availed by passengers at airports for resting during transit. These pods may also offer facilities such as Wi-Fi, television, a daybed sofa, pillows and blankets, sound masking systems and workstations to name a few.

In 2017, SleepBox introduced cozy, luxury sleeping pods with features such as drop-down desk, Bluetooth-enabled speakers, Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets. Minute Suites, another prominent leader in the space, provides a unique audio program in its pods to help travelers drift away to sleep. Other major participants in this field include GoSleep, NapCity, SnoozeCube, and MetroNaps. The concept is not new though. Several patents describing various designs for sleeping pods and capsules were filed in the past 20 years. Examples include JP2003334251A, US4594817A, US5487240A, US20040250481A1, US20100107511A1 and US8276223B1.

Patent US5487240A1 discloses a compact sleeping unit which can be mated with similarly configured sleeping units providing a safe, clean, secure and inexpensive portable structure.

Japan had its first capsule hotels in the late 1970s. The current pods in western airports are however starkly different from their old counterpart Asian models—that had no more than a mattress and the minimum requisite space for a human body.

Self Healing Concrete

Concrete has always been considered a strong building constituent ever since Romans built the Colosseum, almost 2000 years ago. But despite its strength attributes, concrete undergoes deterioration with micro-cracks that lead to leakage and corrosion of steel reinforcements. In worst case scenarios, this can result in the collapse of structures. Every year billions of dollars are spent in the US to maintain concrete infrastructure.

Self-healing concrete is a bacteria-based bio-concrete that is created like regular concrete, but with healing bacteria such as Bacillus pseudofirmus or Sporosarcina pasteurii folded in. If the concrete cracks and water seeps in, the bacteria becomes active and repairs the cracks.

Self-healing concrete was developed by microbiologist Hendrik Jonkers of the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands. It is currently undergoing its first major trial in the South Wales Valleys at one of Costain’s construction sites, led by a team of researchers. Bacteria (or micro-organism) based self-healing of concrete has been a topic of active research, with a significant number of articles published in the past two years. Examples include – Bacteria based self healing concrete, Bacteria-based self-healing concrete to increase liquid tightness of cracks, Helping Concrete Heal Itself, Bacillus sphaericus LMG 22257 is physiologically suitable for self-healing concrete and Microbial healing of cracks in concrete.

3D Coke Design in Times Square

In August 2017 Coca-Cola unveiled the world’s first and largest 3D robotic sign/ billboard in Times Square, NY. The sign comprises a six-story digital spectacular display featuring 1,760 independently moving LED screens, orchestrated to the content on display, conjuring a multisensory experience for lakhs of people who pass through the busy Manhattan junction every day. The 3D effect is created by fragmenting the sign into a 68’x42′ matrix of 1,760 LED screens that can be independently extended out and retracted.

Exemplary three-dimensional billboard/advertisement display systems have been described in patents like US9411167B1 and US6189246B1.

Patent US6189246B1 describes a versatile three-dimensional billboard capable of remote control operation, animation and color accentuation.

Electronic Glasses for the Legally Blind – eSight 3

eSight 3 is a revolutionary wearable, hands-free, headset that provides enhanced sight to people with visual impairments by a combination of augmented reality and digital technology. Using a high-speed HD camera and two OLED displays, the video is processed algorithmically to enhance quality, allowing users with vision issues to better “see” their environment. eSight 3 has been identified as one of the best inventions of 2017 by Time Magazine. Some patents that disclose head mounted devices for vision augmentation include US8135227B2, US9516283B2, and US20170235161A1.

Patent US9516283B2 describes an apparatus and method for enhancing human visual performance in a head-worn video system.

Patent US20170235161A1 discloses a head-worn display designed with an integrated camera for obtaining an image of a scene, that can be transmitted and modified by a real-time processor and display the modified image on a display device worn by the individual.

Smart Straps to Make Calls with Fingertips

A smart strap that enables making calls by placing your fingertip on your ear. With Sgnl (created by Innomdle Lab), you can keep your cell phone undisturbed in your pocket and simply raise your hand to answer a phone call without carrying any extra headset or earphone. So your finger virtually becomes a phone – something we were only promised by sci-fi films as kids. The strap pairs to your phone over Bluetooth and when it receives a voice signal the Body Conduction Unit (BCU) on the strap vibrates. This vibration travels up your hand to your fingertip. Put your fingertip in your ear, and the vibration will echo, amplifying the sound within your ear cavity. The microphone is built into the strap, so capture your voice in return.

Among other breakthrough inventions of 2017 are ChargeWrite – a cool power bank charging pen with memory, Petit Pli garments – Clothes that Expand to Fit Kids as They grow (Pending Patent: GB1709842.7), Jibo – The Social Robot, MULTI – The multi-directional rope-free elevator,  Tesla Model 3 Electric Car, and many more.

We are now two years away from the 2020 IoT dream. At this threshold, will 2018 unfurl IoT-driven inventions?

(The featured image  is a collage created from images that were sourced in clockwise from top left order from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glasses_for_the_blind.jpghttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2005_091112-28rim0051_compressed.JPG, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sleeping_pods_Helsinki-Vantaa_Airport.JPG, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryan_fung/2178393412, http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Face-Call-Gesture-Communication-Female-Contact-15924https://pixabay.com/en/vr-virtual-reality-glasses-911031/ )

Subhasri Das
Subhasri Das

Subhasri is a technocrat who enjoys reading between the lines of patents to understand their hidden value.


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