The Cutting Edge: 5 Awesome New Inventions

Yes, I know everyone’s excited about the release of the next iPhone, and the ascension of the Cloud… but what about other gadgets? How about some other technology that solves real problems, and is impressively cool? Here’s a list of a few inventions on the cutting edge:

1 – A thermally activated cooling system

The problem: You have a car, which releases hot exhaust when it burns energy, this nasty exhaust is a waste of heat and shimmies up into the atmosphere. Bad.

The solution: What if you could take that waste, and recycle it? Oregon State University has provided a working prototype which does just that. It takes wasted heat- given off by cars, factories, and even a computer- and converts that energy to produce cooling or electricity.

The possible uses for this device are endless, and moreover, it’s incredibly relevant during a period of rising anxiety over the cost of energy.

2 – Using excess heat to charge your portable devices

If the last invention seems too abstract for you, how about a tool which takes wasted heat given off by your stove, and uses it to charge your cell phone?

The “power pot” has already been released in Japan, but unfortunately costs almost $300, and a person would have to boil spaghetti for an awfully long time before his or her smartphone was charged. Still, this seems like a vision of the future.

3 – The Lytro Camera

The Lytro has been garnering a lot of attention on tech blogs throughout the internet, and for good reason.

The problem: You went to a special once-in-a-lifetime event, and you took some great pictures to capture the moment! Or so you thought, until you later realized they all came out unfocused and blurry.

The solution: Wouldn’t you love if you could just refocus those pictures after the fact? With Lytro’s new camera, you can. And since the camera works by capturing “the entire light field around the picture.” You can also take pictures in 3D. Welcome to the future my friends.

4 – The “Smell-o-vision”

No, I didn’t come up with that clever name myself, this is another invention which has recently been trumpeted around the blogosphere.

The problem: (depending on your perspective): You’re watching the food network on TV, you can see Alton Brown preparing some delicious pulled pork in his homemade ceramic smoker, you can hear it sizzling… if only you could smell it.

The solution: A scent-generator in the back of your television, which creates smells to match the subject of your program!

This is undoubtedly very cool, and sounds quite appealing if you happen to be watching The Food Network or a commercial for perfume, but everyone can imagine at least one show they watch- and would rather not smell. Therefore, you might consider it lucky that this concept is still in development, and scientists have not yet been able to produce a fully-operating prototype.

5 – Microsoft “Kinects” us to the future

The problem: You are enjoying a long video conference with your colleague, or a faraway relative, and you can barely see them. They are just a 2-dimensional image on the screen, and they have to remain immediately in front of the camera for you to view them at all.

The solution: A student at UNC Chapel Hill created a system which uses the technology of the Microsoft Kinect to sense many angles of a chosen subject, and then create and project a 3D image. This tool could be used for 3D video conferencing in the future, according to an article in PC World. (If you’re interested, the article also lists several other really cool Kinect hacks).

Microsoft also came up with a similar use for the Kinect, but rather than viewing the subject as he or she might appear in real life, their version of the video conference converts them into a cartoon version of themselves.

So there you are; and you thought the iPad was cool.

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