Jibo, the social robot … plus eSight3 and Halo Top … Time Magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2017
November 20, 2017
After revealing the 100 most influential people of 2017, Time Magazine‘s annual review continues with their 25 best inventions this year. Considering hundreds of inventions worldwide, the unranked list features everything from electronics, clothing, food, and more. Here’s what made the cut:
1. Jibo – The $899 social robot
Personal robots such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, have come a long way in recent years. But fundamentally, they’re still stationary speakers whose defining expression is a light that turns on when you speak. Jibo is different. It’s not just that he—and I use the term he here, because that’s how Jibo refers to himself—looks like something straight out of a Pixar movie, with a big, round head and a face that uses animated icons to convey emotion. It’s not just that his body swivels and swerves while he speaks, as if he’s talking with his nonexistent hands. It’s not just that he can giggle and dance and turn to face you, wherever you are, as soon as you say, “Hey, Jibo.” It’s that, because of all this, Jibo seems downright human in a way that his predecessors do not.
2. eSight 3 – AR glasses
For the millions of people who are legally blind, navigation is a routine challenge. Though support canes and guide dogs can help, they cannot mimic actual vision. eSight3 can. Think of it as the world’s most powerful pair of glasses: once users put on eSight, it records high definition video and uses magnification, contrast and proprietary algorithms to enhance that imagery into something the legally blind can see—enabling them to partake in a variety of activities, including sports, that would otherwise be off-limits. At $9,995, the device, which launched in February, is not accessible to everyone (though the company does help connect would-be buyers with funding sources, including grants). But it is cheaper than the company’s earlier iterations, as well as faster, lighter and equipped with better zoom capabilities. To date, the company estimates it has been used by more than 1,000 patients.
3. Halo Top – Gluten-free ice-cream
It sounds almost too good to be true: a flavor-packed, low-sugar ice cream with no more than 360 calories— per pint. But such is the promise of Halo Top whose containers invite patrons to “go ahead, eat the whole pint” in one sitting and whose product the company’s CEO, Justin Woolverton, routinely calls “healthy.” On the latter point, there has been some debate. Halo Top which is also enriched with protein, maintains its low calorie count using the zero-calorie sweetener Stevia, along with cane sugar and sugar alcohol. While those ingredients are fine to consume, they’re not exactly paragons of nutrition. Then again, Halo Top’s goal isn’t to replace fruits and veggies; it’s to give diet-conscious consumers “an option to eat ice cream again,” says Woolverton. To that end, Halo Top (which retails for about $5 per pint) is succeeding in spades. Its annual sales soared roughly 2,500% last year, and it recently beat out Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s to become the best-selling pint in America.
4. Fenty Beauty – Rihanna’s newly-launched makeup line
5. Ember Mug – $80 smart mug
6. Thyssenkrupp MULTI – A multi-directional elevator
What if elevators could move sideways, instead of just up and down? It’s a question straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Germany-based Thyssenkrupp has a real-life answer: MULTI, a system of elevators that ditches old-school pulleys for the same magnetic levitation tech that enables high-speed trains. The elevator cars can travel in multiple directions and even pass each other within a shaft—features that could not only reduce wait times, but also fundamentally “change how buildings are constructed,” says Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Elevator. (Think horizontal offshoots of straight, vertical towers.) Following a successful test this year, the first MULTI is set to debut in Berlin by 2021.
7. iPhone X – Apple’s latest flagship smartphone
8. Nike Pro hijab – A sports hijab to empower Muslim athletes
9. Forward – $149 per month high-end wellness clinic
10. adidas Futurecraft 4D – 3-D printed sneakers
11. Tesla Model 3 – All-electric four-door luxury sedan
12. Willow Pump – Smart breast pump system design for breastfeeding
13. Nest Secure – Home security system
14. NASA Mars Insight – Robotic Mars lander designed to study the interior and subsurface of Mars
The train to Mars pulls out only once every two years. That’s how often Earth and its neighbor move into alignment for the quickest possible journey from one planet to the other. NASA plans to make good use of the 2018 window, with the planned launch in May of the Mars Insight lander, which, as its name suggests, will give scientists their best look ever at the interior of the Red Planet. (The InSight was initially slated to launch in ’16, but glitches in its seismograph system led to delays.) Unlike Curiosity and other Mars rovers, this craft will stay in one place. But with good reason: it will hammer a probe more than 16 ft. into the Martian surface to study the planet’s thermal history—in effect, taking its geological temperature. Meanwhile, the seismometers will study Mars’ composition, an X-ray radio link will analyze wobble (the way Mars spins on its axis and is gravitationally tugged by other bodies in the solar system), and cameras will return panoramic and 3-D pictures. The space- craft should operate for 728 Earth days (708 Martian sols)—or until just about the time the 2020 flight is ready to go.
15. Oculus Go – Virtual reality headset
16. Tasty One Top – Induction cooktop that syncs with the Tasty smartphone app to guide chefs through different recipes
17. DJI Spark – The camera drone for everyone
Airborne drones have exploded in popularity over the past few years, improving everything from mapmaking to search-and-rescue operations. The DJI Spark has a more down-to-earth goal: helping anyone take better photos, videos and “dronies,”a.k.a. drone selfies. To that end,it’s easier to operate( gesture recognition means you can control it with a wave of your hand), harder to crash (an array of sensors help prevent midair collisions) and relatively cheap ($499)—though its maximum flight time of 16 minutes is shorter than higher-end models. “We see Spark as the starting point of a whole new series of drones,” says Paul Pan, DJI senior product manager. So far, that strategy is working: thanks in part to the Spark, which launched in June, China-based DJI sells half of all drones bought in the U.S.
18. Molekule – High-end air filter
19. Michelin Vision Concept – Updated tire tech with 3D-printed treads
20. Norton Core – Smart Wi-Fi router designed to detect abnormalities
21. Bempu – Temperature-monitoring bracelet for babies
22. Nintendo Switch – The seventh major video game console developed by Nintendo
23. VICIS Zero1 – A stronger and safer football helmet
24. GreenWave 3D Ocean Farm – Grow oysters, mussels, clams and seaweed on ropes anchored to the ocean floor
The future of farming is growing oysters, mussels, clams and seaweed on ropes anchored to the ocean floor. So says Bren Smith, a commercial fisherman turned director of GreenWave, a Connecticut nonprofit doing just that. The concept isn’t as wild as it may seem. As land farming becomes increasingly problematic—it accounts for a growing portion of the planet’s greenhouse-gas emissions—and oceans get overfished, humans will need to develop alternative food sources. GreenWave’s crops offer compelling advantages: they’re protein-rich, self-sufficient (no fertilizer needed) and they even help combat climate change (by sequestering carbon as they grow). Of course, getting Westerners to center their diet on mollusks and seaweed is a stretch. Still, GreenWave sees potential: the group has helped fishermen establish 14 farms along the coast of New England since 2013, and now has plans to expand in California, the Pacific Northwest and Europe.
25. Fidget Spinners
Hmmm. Not sure about that last one!