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Popular Science's '100 Best Innovations of the Year'

by: Pam Gregory, Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

November 19, 2010

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Geek Alert! Popular Science is out with its annual 100 Best Innovations of the Year. Reliability cool any year, this year's list is also notable for a number of innovations that stand to make technology more accessible and lives easier for the disabled.

A few of my personal favorites:

  • Prosthetic hands, by ProDigits, developed by roboticists that moved the electronics from the palm and put them into the fingers—such a leap forward that people can eventually type with their new hand.
  • Siri, a personal assistant app that uses natural-language speech recognition to carry out complex demands— "Make a reservation for four at Chef Geoff's at 7pm Saturday night," for example.
  • Google Goggles, an app that enables Web searches based on images captured by your smartphone.
  • The GE VSCAN, a mobile ultrasound machine about the size of a cell phone. Particularly interesting given that an estimated 500 million people will use mobile health apps by 2015.
  • The iPad (of course).
  • The ecoATM cell phone recycler, which lets you turn in your used handset and get paid for its value.
  • A wireless phone charging station — just place your phone on a pad!
  • Wikitude, an augmented reality browser that uses geo-location data to identify places, sites and buildings.
  • A telescope eye implant that can restore a "severe vision impairment" to a "moderate vision impairment."
  • User-friendly crutches . Developed by Jeff Webber (who was on the team that designed Herman Millers Aeron chair), these fundamentally changing the shape of the crutch from a "T" to an "A" frame.
  • A Google search engine for television, which gathers metadata with keywords. It was developed on an open platform allowing developers to make more accessible television guides or even translate closed captioning, .
  • A crime-busting hardware attachment for the iPhone, which uses biometrics such as iris recognition, fingerprints, etc. Now police can take a photo of a suspect and use facial recognition software to match to those awful "WANTED" posters.
  • A wireless system for IPTV called WiDi, for wireless display.
  • A new diagnostic technology that allows Kenmore washer and dryers to send data to a technician over a phone line, and depending on the problem, the technician can talk you through the fix, or just send a repair person.
  • And finally, a new web language, HTML 5 that allows browsers to display video on a computer, phone, iPad, without having to install software such as Flash.

Alan Gregerman, author of Surrounded by Geniuses once said, "Like Benjamin Franklin, we have to stand in a storm to be truly inspired (or electrified)". He could have been talking about just such a list. Onward and upward!

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