Benjamin Franklin, Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla. These names are synonymous with electrical innovations and advancements that shaped the very history of modern electronics. From a key flown into the sky on a kite string, to the first electric motor and the Tesla Coil, electrical technology has progressed to the point where most inventions don’t shock us anymore.
Despite that fact, there are many exciting, entertaining and flat-out fun innovations making waves in the electrical technology field. Here are five of the most ingenious inventions you’ll see this year.
1. Electrically-Powered Walkways
In June, UK-based Pavagen took an underutilized swath of a walking path in London’s West End and turned it into a power-generating sidewalk. As a clean-tech company, Pavagen develops custom flooring systems which contain generators that capture pedestrian-flow-metrics and convert that energy into electricity.
When someone steps onto one of Pavagen’s custom flooring, the tiles depress, causing the generators to vertically displace. This captures the kinetic energy of each depression which can then be used as electricity.
To make the entire experience even more interactive, Pavagen created an app for pedestrians to download that allowed them to view the amount of electricity their footsteps generated.
2. Self-Driving Trucks
The prospect of 18-wheelers as self-driving vehicles is much more daunting than a small car or large SUV. There’s the massive weight of the trailer-truck, the logistics of driving for long periods of time across great distances and the ability to face obstacles with autonomy. For example; can the self-driving system differentiate between swerving to avoid a child or a plastic bag?
Otto, a startup in San Francisco that is headed by Anthony Levandowski of Google Maps fame, already has seven trucks on the road that use their self-driving technology. Their hope is that more truck owners will begin testing their technology for free, leading to faster adoption of autonomous trucks.
3. ONO 3D Smartphone Printer
3D printing sounds like something you’d see on a Star Trek show or Star Wars movie. 3D printing from your mobile phone just sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly what ONO has done. After raising more than $2.5 million on Kickstarter, ONO developed a 3D printer for smartphones.
With a massive library of designs to choose from, ONO enables users to send mobile messages to each other with a downloadable design they can print within the span of 2-3 hours. Forget about flowers on Valentine’s Day, how about a 3D printed heart?
4. Mind-Reader; the Neurocam
A headpiece that reads your mind. Sounds absurd, right? While the neurocam doesn’t actually read minds, it does detect emotions and conveys what the wearer is feeling through a series of GIFs that display on the screen of their smartphone.
The only thing absurd about this technology is that you have to wear your phone on the side of your face. Not exactly elegant, but that’s the price you pay for mind-reading innovation.
5. Roads that Charge Your Car
As electric cars become more popular, the demand for recharging stations and vehicles that hold charges for longer durations of time continues to increase. But what if you didn’t even need a charging station? Qualcomm has developed a technology for charging electric cars that doesn’t even require drivers to get out of their vehicle or come to a full stop.
In Paris, Qualcomm used a 100-meter stretch of road to test their technology’s ability to charge moving vehicles. How? By creating an electromagnetic field which transmits energy to a receiver that charges the car’s battery as it passes over a specially-designed strip of asphalt embedded with metal coils.
These innovations are fun, efficient, somewhat whacky and completely inventive. As 2017 progresses, we’re sure to see even greater advances in smart electronic technology.