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!