2014's Weird, Wild, Jaw-Dropping Innovations
2014 was a year that saw countless advances in science, technology, design, food and business. Here are just ten of the innovations that impressed and delighted us at Entrepreneur throughout the last twelve months.
1. Self-driving cars. Google unveiled a prototype for its self-driving car this spring after more than three years in development. The tiny automated cars are not unlike the Smart cars you see expertly parallel parked on city streets, aside from the camera placed atop their roofs. The vehicle, which has sensors that can detect objects more than two football fields away can reach up to 25 mph, with only two controls – a start and a stop button.
Read more: A Panic Button and No Steering Wheel: A Look at Google's First Self-Driving Car
2. 3D printed…everything. 3D printing has been around for decades, but the technology seemed ever-present in 2014 as it became more affordable and available. Machines were installed in certain UPS and Staples locations and special attention came to innovators printing everything from bones and organs to Christmas ornaments. The end results were delicious (3D printed ravioli) and beautiful (jewelry and cosmetics) as well as practical (computers and houses).
3. Ice cream that changes color. You read that right. Manuel Linares, a Spanish chef with a background in physics and engineering, unveiled a new flavor in his ice cream shop back in August called Xamaleon (like Chameleon). The sweet treat, which includes banana, cocoa, caramel, strawberries and nuts, reportedly changes from blue to magenta right before your eyes.
Read more: This Insane Ice Cream Changes Color When You Lick It.
4. Contact lenses that read blood sugar. This summer, Swiss Pharmaceutical company Novartis announced that it would team up with Google X, the search giant’s research arm, to develop contact lenses with microchips and glucose sensors. The project is intended to help people with diabetes track their blood sugar through monitoring their tears.
Read more: Novartis, Google to Develop Contact Lenses to Monitor Blood Sugar
5. Plants that play music. Art collective Data Garden developed a device that reads the plants biorhythms via being hooked up to electrical probes. The device then turns the information it finds into sounds and music unique to each plant.
Read more: This Contraption Transforms Houseplants Into Musical Instruments
6. Glow-in-the-dark highways. In the Netherlands, an interactive artist named Daan Roosegaarde joined forces with a civil engineering firm called Heijmans to make a smart highway. To make 5000m of Dutch highway a bit safer, they painted it with glow in the dark paint mixed with a substance that uses the sun to recharge and glows green all night.
Read more: A Highway Illuminated by Glow in the Dark Paint, Not Streetlights
7. A password you can swallow. Do you ever have trouble remembering all your passwords? This year telecom company Motorola unveiled an "authentication vitamin" that you can eat to essentially become a human password. The pill, which was made with help from Proteus Digital Health, begins to work when it is digested – transmitting a signal that acts as a password to your gadgets. It's been approved by the FDA, but is not on the market just yet.
Read more: Swallow This 'Password' Pill to Unlock Your Digital Devices
8. Sharks that tweet. Surf Life Saving Western Australia, a non-profit beach safety agency in Australia, has a twitter feed with nearly 33,000 followers. Why? Scientists have outfitted over 320 sharks with transmitters, and when they swim within a kilometer of a beach in the area, those transmitters send an alert to SLSWA computers which generate a tweet about when and where the shark was detected.
Read more: Afraid of Sharks? No Problem. Just Check Twitter.
9. A James Bond-worthy watch. Inventor Patrick Priebe was so inspired by the laser watch featured in the 1995 flick Goldeneye that he made his own. His creation features a carbon-coated cover, a metal body and shoots 1,500-milliwatt lasers. It also tells time.
Read more: A Watch That Shoots Lasers? Yes, Please.
10.A gadget that sniffs out gluten. Thanks to the team at 6SensorLabs, it could soon be a little easier for those with celiac disease or gluten allergies to go out to eat. The company is in the process of developing and testing a portable sensor that detects gluten in food, and it recently raised $4 million. They hope to make the product available commercially sometime next year.
Read more: Soon, You Could Own a Device That Scans Your Food for Gluten