Water treadmill to Hoverbike: Innovations get cool, smart, quirky in 2020

The Locomo Water Walker is a treadmill loaded with water, which has taken Japan by storm
Despite the doom and gloom of the pandemic, quite a few unusual inventions unconnected with viruses and masks have emerged this year. The following list focuses purely on unusual stuff that might tickle the fancy of the retail consumer. There are no hydrogen-powered airplanes or other interesting industrial products here. Some of these things are still in the demonstration / development stage. Others can already be ordered off the shelf.

Water treadmill: Giving up swimming and gyming due to lockdown restrictions has been hard for many of us. This Locomo Water Walker gives you a little bit of both experiences. It’s a treadmill loaded with water. After taking Japan by storm, this is now being marketed to the rest of the world. 

Solar paving: Imagine colourful solar panels that can be placed flat on the floor, or on the road, or on a tennis court, or indeed anywhere there’s sunshine. These panels could become a generic green solution and they’re also aesthetically pleasing conversation pieces. The technology is backed by the US Department of Transportation, which has invested in the product. 

Atomic Pi: The Raspberry Pi, a tiny barebones computer is popular among hobbyists. But it’s underpowered and, therefore, frustrating. Atomic Pi is an attempt to deliver the same compact barebones experience, with serious number-crunching power thrown in.  Works off Linux. 

Nano camera: Amateur astronomers want miniature cameras, which have the optical muscle to capture and magnify really tiny sparks of light in the night sky. TinyMos specialises in this niche product. The NANO1 is marketed as the world’s smallest astronomy camera. While fitting into the palm of the average hand, it also fits a dual mount interchangeable lens system (M12 & C mount) and has a smart patented algorithm, which enhances low-light images. Also connects to smartphones for fast image transfer. 

Levitating bulbs: Have you ever wanted to own a light bulb that levitates? Indeed, have you ever imagined somebody would design and market such a product commercially? Well, check out the Flyte Buckminster from Sweden. This is an Edison-style borosilicate glass bulb, with a 7 LED star-shaped filament, a copper cap and an aluminium ring. The base is crafted from walnut. The LED is rated for 50,000 hours. It’s plug and play from any power socket (you’ll probably need an adapter to handle Indian voltage and cycles), though they do warn you not to get frustrated if the bulb takes a few attempts before it starts to float. 

Sanitising wand: This is a practical innovation meant for the kitchen and the lab and to clean your electronics. The wand uses ultraviolet to sanitise surfaces, clearing bacteria, viruses, moulds, etc. Easily portable since its pen sized. Can be used for cleaning kitchen surfaces, and for delicate gizmos like cell phones, remotes, laptop keyboards, music players, etc. Word of caution: Don’t use on pets or yourself! 

Portable water purifier:  TheCrazyCap has come up with a potentially game-changing idea that could turn the global packaged water industry upside down. This is a smart cap for a water bottle, which is designed to purify “water from questionable sources”. The cap itself is about 5 cm high and fits most standard bottles. Charge the cap via USB, fill the bottle with “questionable” water, and viola, you have safe drinking water after the cap does its miracle in 60 seconds. This uses LED Ultraviolet technology. Could be a boon for travellers, hikers and people going off the grid. 

Air vodka: NASA spends a lot of time trying to create tools to analyse atmospheres. Air Company is a tech start-up that tries to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Backed by NASA, it discovered a way to not only remove CO2 from the air, but also how to turn it into potable ethyl alcohol! Air vodka can not only get you high, it’s also environmentally beneficial since every 750 ml of air vodka generation removes about 450 gm of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Hoverbike: The Dubai Police is starting to deploy the S3 hoverbike from Hoversurf. This 114 kg vehicle can soar 5 metres into the air, and fly at about 96 kmph (legally, but it can apparently be rigged to go faster). It’s essentially a big quad-copter (four rotors) with a motorcycle seat. This is a killer pursuit vehicle for obvious reasons and it costs about Rs 1.1 crore or so. It’s pretty hard to fly, though. The reason why human piloted choppers usually don’t have four rotors is because balancing the lift and torque of four rotors is difficult for human reflexes.



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