Problem, meet solution. The James Dyson Award tasks next-gen designers with crafting a product that addresses a conundrum of some kind, with this year's problems ranging from hypothermia to street noise and secondary injuries incurred moving patients onto stretchers. Click through our gallery to see some of the 20 inventions selected as finalists for this year's award. The top honorees will be announced November 7, with the international winner getting 30,000 British pounds ($48,000).
Workers who've sustained arm or back injuries due to heavy lifting often face a lengthy recovery to rebuild muscle and strength.
Enter Titan Arm, developed by University of Pennsylvania mechanical engineering students Elizabeth Beattie, Nick McGill, Nick Parrotta, and Niko Vladimirov. It's a 18.5-pound upper-body exoskeleton that augments the wearer's arm strength to reduce fatigue during recovery, while bracing the back to prevent poor lifting posture.
While current exoskeletons can cost upward of $100,000, "using lean principles," the Titan team created their product for less than $2,000.
"Low price points will help make Titan ubiquitous, aiding many more people," the creators say.
The team also envisions Titan Arm as a tool for stroke victims who need to relearn fine-motor skills, as well as the elderly or those with permanent injuries or disabilities.
Photo by: Elizabeth Beattie, Nick McGill, Niko Vladimirov, Nick Parrotta
/ Caption by:Leslie Katz
To advance communication between the hearing-impaired and their hearing compatriots, Yoshihiro Kaneko of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Japan's University of Tsukuba devised Awaring.
In group conversations, Kaneko notes, hearing impaired who rely on lip reading can get left behind. Awaring indicates the speaker's location in real time using LED lights that let the listener know where to look.
The device also measures the volume of a speaker's voice to let them know if they need to speak up to be perceived by someone with diminished hearing. Certain LED patterns can even indicate laughter.
Designer Mugi Yamamoto of Switzerland aims to combat the bulk and paper-loading hassles of traditional printers with Stack, which places an inkjet printer atop a pile of paper. To print, the innovative Stack works its way downward, swallowing the pile of paper until none is left. The paper disappears under the printer and exits on top, where it creates a new pile.
The James Dyson Award received some 650 submissions from 18 countries this year; 20 made it onto the finalist list.
Hiroshi Yamaura and team out of Japan designed Handie -- an affordable prosthetic hand with built-in myoelectric sensors that can read brain signals -- to counteract the high cost of dexterous prosthetic hands.
Instead of relying on an exclusive device for computation, Handie uses a regular old smartphone to compute the electrical impulses on the skin's surface. All components are easily modified and reproduced using a 3D printer.
The hand relies on one motor that changes trajectory depending on the shape of an object.
BioWool turns waste material from the coarse-wool industry into a biodegradable, flame-resistant biopolymer. The plastic substitute is made by carding the wool and then using needles to shred and pull the fibers together. A bio-resin is added to create a polymer that can be molded and shaped.
Luggage is just one potential application for BioWool, says UK designer Dan McLoughlin, who grew up around the wool industry and has many friends who currently work in the field around the lower South Island of New Zealand.
Revolights are a series of LED rings that clip onto a bike's existing rims and cast 360 degrees of illumination, making riders easier to spot. The lights are powered by hub-mounted lithium ion battery packs. Revolights topped its Kickstarter goal this year by far, topping its $43,500 goal to hit more than $215,000. The idea for the lights first occurred to inventor Kent Frankovich while he was riding his bike home from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
Is that car alarm driving you batty? The Sono concept device by Austrian designer Rudolf Stefanich fits onto a window to detect noise vibrations on the glass surface and then produce a signal that cancels out said vibrations. But here's where it gets interesting: Digital sound-processing technology lets you choose exactly which sounds you want to eliminate. The device's battery gets recharged via the usual plug-on method, but the Sono can also harvest energy from electromagnetic noise, such as Wi-Fi signals.