2019 was a remarkable year for technology and innovators. New products were teased, revealed, or released on a daily basis. Experiments that were too advanced for years past finally made it to market. Even if some of the newest innovations are still finding their footing, they’ll be major players in the next decade. It would be impossible to list all the breakthroughs from the last 365 days, so instead here are five of the most impactful and impressive (in our opinion).
BRAINROBOTICS AI PROSTHETIC HAND
Prosthetics are a major boon to those who were born without or lost a limb, giving them access to greater mobility and strength. However, most are lacking in the way of range of motion or minute changes in position. This prosthetic hand by BrainRobotics features an AI, a first for its kind, that learns from use. With time, it will be able to make the same gestures and grips any flesh hand could. Already, lives are being changed and improved for test patients and regaining the abilities they once had. For example, a 22-year-old patient was able to complete a piano duet using the prosthetic. It was even named a 2019 honoree by the CES Innovation Awards. It’s still currently in testing but should be available to the public in the coming years.
In the digital age, more children (and adults!) are taking an interest in understanding just how a computer works. Kano had already begun educating kids with its line of DIY computers that allowed users to build a custom OS (operating system). The Kano PC expands upon that concept, giving would-be coders all the components and hardware specs of a full PC with the security of Window 10’s S Mode. Users not only build the computer from scratch but also program and design the very applications for it to run. For those a little bit older, it makes a great first computer when used in normal Windows 10 mode or with a personalized OS. And yes, gamers, it can play Minecraft.
STARKEY LIVIO AI
Hearing aids, while important for those with poor hearing, are frequently frowned upon. Many consider them to be a sign of weakness. Starkey’s Livio AI instead incorporates all the features of a modern smartphone or earbud- it can stream music, track your exercise and speech for the day, translate conversations, and even alert medical services and loved ones in case of a fall. Certain models are capable of holding a 24-hour life cycle with a single charge, giving users a full day of hearing without any compromises. The device technically launched in 2018, but only became mainstream and accessible in 2019. Currently, only hearing professionals can prescribe Livio AI.
Previously, the only way to produce water from seemingly thin air was to be in the Harry Potter universe and know the spell “Aguamenti.” Israeli company Watergen has changed this with its portable water source GENNY. It pulls moisture from ambient air to create clean drinking water–up to seven gallons a day. It can even be used in polluted or dangerous areas, thanks to a multi-stage purification process. The standard model looks like a fancy water cooler, with larger models already being used for disaster relief. GENNY is approximately $1500 US, with the exact price to be set by distributors.
Normally, a “soft launch” indicates a product is being teased and tested before fully entering the market. For the China National Space Administration, it was the biggest accomplishment possible. The Chang’e 4 model spacecraft (named after the Chinese moon goddess) not only had a monumental soft landing, it was also the first spacecraft ever to touch down on the dark side of the moon. It also launched a rover to trek across the moon. One of Chang’e 4’s payloads, the Lunar Micro Ecosystem, recently deployed to grow cotton seeds in a biosphere over the course of nine days.
This is only a small sample of the innovations 2019 brought us. We haven’t even touched on milestones like the Impossible Burger, Grayl’s Geopress, or Popular Science’s Innovation of the Year, Zulresso. With all the breakthroughs this year, it’s a sure sign that 2020- and the next decade- will be just as impressive.
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