4 lesser known inventions set to take our future by storm.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it” — Alan Kay.
- Solar roof:
The traditional solar panels on your roof help you to save electricity costs, but give an ugly look to houses on account of their bulky metal like structures. Solution: the Solar Roof, a series of tiles with the characteristics of a solar panel designed to blend together in the roof, while also harnessing the power of the sun. The product line, will be collaboration between Tesla and SolarCity, a longtime provider of traditional solar panels. (Tesla acquired SolarCity late in 2016). SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive is optimistic about Solar Roof’s potential. “It’s addressing a new segment,” he says, referring to the 5 million Americans who install new roofs each year, some of whom might want to go solar.
2. Shoes that tie themselves:
Almost everyone who has seen Back to the Future wants three things: a time-traveling DeLorean, a working hoverboard and a pair of self-lacing shoes. Now, thanks to Nike, the shoe dream is a reality. When wearers press a button near the tongue, the HyperAdapt 1.0 automatically tightens and loosens around their foot. And although this technology may sound frivolous, it’s not just for kicks: simplified shoe fastening could give athletes an edge during competition, and it’s especially useful for people with impaired motor function. “We’re already seeing powerful feedback” from the disabled community, says Tinker Hatfield, Nike’s vice president of design and special projects.
3. Period proof underwear:
For decades, women trying to avoid leaks or stains during menstruation have mainly had to rely on disposable pads, tampons and panty liners, which can be bulky and expensive. “But can’t underwear do the same thing, better?” wondered Miki and Radha Agrawal. That’s the idea behind Thinx, a line of thongs and panties that the twin sisters — alongside co-founder Antonia Dunbar and a team of manufacturers in Sri Lanka — have engineered to mostly replace traditional products. Each pair is washable, reusable and equipped with four layers of moisture-wicking, antimicrobial fabric. On heavier days, however, some women may need extra protection. “We always say, Know your flow,” says Miki.
4. 3-D printers:
A machine that can build any object. It sounds like a sci-fi fantasy, but with the rise of 3-D printers, devices that can build objects from digital blueprints, usually by layering plastic or other materials is rapidly becoming a reality. That’s a boon for consumers and corporations alike. In the past year alone, middle-school students have 3-D-printed stock cars for physics lessons, scientists have 3-D-printed tissues for human organs, and GE has used 3-D printing to improve the efficiency of its jet engines. “This is one of those technologies that literally touches everything we do,” says Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, whose 3-D printers produce candy and musical instruments, among other objects.
It is safe to say that these products are primarily a result of continued determination, sound technical ability and a continued development of the eye to see the latent needs of people.
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