This year has seen an incredible range of innovations, ranging from self-repairing cement to the Tesla Powerwall home battery system and IKEA’s kitchen of the future, with its super-smart kitchen table that can measure ingredients, suggest recipes and charge your iPad.
Putting together a top five list wasn’t easy, but here it is:
The Lily drone
The creators of Lily call it the “camera reinvented”, though others are calling it the “throw-and go selfie camera”. Chuck Lily into the air and she hovers a metre or two above your head filming you. She’ll follow you at a top speed of 15mph and capture your activities in full HD 1080p60, or in SloMo 720p60, from a range of different angles they call “Lily shots”.
Lily can film for up to 20 minutes and is waterproof and relatively tough – so can be used by extreme alpine skiers wanting to share a video montage of their latest adventure, or casual hikers taking photos at the Hunua falls.
And she has an ‘easy landing’ feature – hold out your hand and she’ll arrive and power down. Unfortunately, at this stage Lily is only shipping within the US, selling for a total of $US819, including shipping.
Skully smart motorbike helmet
Bike helmets, while critical, have changed little over the years. A US start-up called Skully has set out to change this. The result is the AR-1, a hyper-connected motorcycle helmet that drastically improves the experience of riding a motorcycle as well as increasing overall safety. The Skully has features such as GPS navigation, an ultra-wide-angle rear-view camera (which feeds into a transparent heads up display) and connectability to the rider’s phone and music.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Skully is that it has turned the motorbike helmet into a platform which, according to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels opens the door to “a level of innovation that you had never thought about before”. Skully’s initial crowdfunding campaign broke Indiegogo records and raised $US2.5m from 1,940 individual backers around the world. The company later raised a further $US11m in a Series A round. The first orders are set to be released in March 2016 and you can pre-order yours for $US1499 from skully.com.
Teforia tea maker
People have brewed tea for over 5,000 years but there has been little innovation beyond the introduction of the strainer and teabag. The creators of Teforia (some of the best minds in product design, with innovative pieces of tech like the Xbox 360 and the Kindle Fire previously under their belt) have come together to create the first machine-learning brewing device, with the aim of creating “your perfect cup of tea”. The smart brewing device uses a proprietary “selective infusion” process and learns how you like your cuppa, enabling customisable flavour profiles, caffeine dosages and antioxidant levels.
Teforia is currently accepting orders for a limited number of ‘early customer’ units that will start shipping throughout the US in Spring 2016 for $US699, so if you have friends or family visiting mid next year, it might just be worth adding a Teforia to your Christmas 2016 wish list.
June Intelligent Oven
One of the stressors of the Christmas season is the dinner – who’s cooking it, what are you going to eat, when are you going to eat it, and so on. The June Intelligent Oven might just be the solution to the problem, or at least go some way towards alleviating it. The June was created by a team that helped to bring innovations like the iPhone, FitBit and GoPro to life. The front of the oven is made of transparent, triple-glazed glass, and instead of having numerous knobs and dials; June only has one, complemented by an integrated touch screen built into the door. Inside the oven are heat-efficient carbon fibre coils, which can preheat the oven to 350 degrees in just two minutes.
The idea is that if you want to make chocolate brownies, for example, June will know just how long to bake them to make them crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. It does this through the internal camera, which recognises what is being cooked and adjusts the temperatures and times accordingly. There is also a clever probe that talks to the oven as the food cooks.
“By the time the door is closed, the June knows what you’re cooking, how much it weighs. And if you use the integrated thermometers [probes], it can cook it to your preference perfectly,” according to June co-founder, and ex-Apple engineer, Nikhil Bhogal. The June oven can also communicate with your devices, allowing you to peak inside the oven from your iPhone, or get a notification when the meal is done. June ovens can be reserved now for an upfront deposit of $US95, and will cost $US1,495. They are slated to launch within the US in 2016, although aren’t yet available for international shipping.
Steem caffeinated peanut butter
Here’s a slightly more affordable innovation. Over the past few years New Zealand, and indeed the world, has been through something of a peanut butter renaissance, with craft peanut butters popping up left, right, and centre. Think Wellington based Fix & Fogg, Nelson’s Pic’s, or Whittaker’s peanut butter-filled chocolate. Now a small peanut butter company in Greenfield, Massachusetts has created a product called STEEM; a caffeinated peanut butter that promises to keep you alert and energised, without the crash typically attributed to your morning flat white. The theory is that two tablespoons of STEEM contains 150mg of caffeine – roughly the same amount as in a double espresso – but because it takes our bodies a while to actually digest the peanut butter itself, we are given an extended release of caffeine as opposed to an upfront surge. Currently STEEM peanut butter is being sold in the US for $US4.99 and will ship to anywhere in the world, including New Zealand. But be warned, a single jar will cost you somewhere in the region of $32.
For more Previously Unavailable ideas and innovations, check out previously.co.