The Most Innovative Inventions of the Past 5 years

by Serena Grant on July 22, 2012

Inventions have to mean something, or have to put a new and unusual spin on appliances that have passed into everyday use. These inventions often come from unusual places, and make contributions to areas in new and innovative ways. When tracking the best inventions of the past few years, it is consequently important to think about how different gadgets and tools have transformed, or promise to transform, the future of science and everyday life. From the iPhone to Airdrop irrigation systems, the following list represents some of the best innovations since 2007.

iPhone 4 Bumper + Universal Dock w/ DIY Adapter by Yutaka Tsutano, on Flickr

5 – The iPhone

Unveiled in 2007, the iPhone has the distinction of transforming mobile phones into all in one smartphones that are increasingly converging a number of different technologies. Apple’s design remains the standard by which other phone companies aspire to, with the original iPhone integrating Wi Fi, a touch screen interface and apps. Five generations have followed the original iPhone, and have pushed for higher quality cameras, streaming, and intuitive interfaces. Many have challenged Apple’s dominance of the smartphone market, but few have really approached the game changing impact of the iPhone on how we use our phones.

4 – Bionic Hand

Scottish company Touch Bionics developed an advanced bionic hand in 2007. The new ‘i-LImb Hand’ was notable for significantly improving on previous prosthetic technologies through highly advanced sensors and wireless programming. 1,200 patients had received copies of the hand by 2010, with research ongoing into the hand’s ability to grip small objects, and to respond more precisely to commands. Work of a similar nature is also continuing into bionic wrists, arms and legs.

3 – Robo Penguin

Robo Penguin, or AquaPenguin to give it its official title, was a project developed by German tech company Festo in 2009 as part of their Bionic Learning Network. A mechanical penguin, the robot can navigate cramped spaces underwater, and can also fly. Applications include the use of 3D sonar and programming to make the penguins an effective research tool for extracting samples from the sea bed, and for monitoring sea life. Other applications include the adaptation of animal abilities to a bionic octopus, and bird wings for planes.

2 – Kickstarter

A popular form of crowd sourced financing, Kickstarter launched in 2008 as a way of raising the funds for projects via multiple small donations online. Successful projects have included games, comics and small films, as well as technology projects. While a straightforward invention, Kickstarter’s potential lies in its simple approach to generating funds from aggregated sources, bypassing traditional media production lines to encourage projects that can better serve audiences that feel they are not being catered to by mainstream companies.

1 – Airdrop

Designed by inventor Edward Linacre, Airdrop won the 2011 James Dyson Award for most innovative invention. Linacre’s invention is an irrigation system that converts moisture lost from soil evaporation, and returns it underground for conversion into water for crops. The applications for Airdrop include being able to irrigate failing crops in arid climates, while maximising environmental resources.


About the authour: Working with one of the UK’s leading product design agencies, Serena has a wealth of knowledge on the evolution of product designs throughout the past century. She writes for many other industries including design, education, technology, health and automotive.

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