Popular Mechanics magazine will unveil its Breakthrough Awards, the publication's annual celebration of the brightest innovators and innovations. This year's winners include tech that lets you read books on a thin, digital device, see all around your car as you park, and explore outer space through your imagination.
This year's awards go to these 10 products:
- The M-Spector Digital Inspection Camera, from Milwaukee Tools. This device is designed to give people trying to do home repairs a way to see behind walls without cutting holes first. It features a 17-mm-wide 2x zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD. It costs $259.
- Spore, from Electronic Arts. The long-awaited evolution game from famous designer Will Wright tasks players with evolving from single-cell muck to outer space, with stops along the way as individual creatures, small tribes and city-size civilizations.
- The Livescribe Pulse Smartpen. This pen-size device allows its owner to take notes on special paper while simultaneously recording audio. Later, by tapping on a specific section of notes on the paper, users can get a playback of that section of audio. It can also perform simple language translation as well as other functions.
- Potenco's PCG1 power generator. This user-driven device allows anyone to power up small devices like mobile phones with their hands. Pulling on the unit's cord for two minutes provides 40 minutes of power-up.
- Intel's Atom processor. Microprocessor powerhouse Intel has built a low-power chip designed to give high-performance capabilities to mobile devices and light laptop computers.
- The Craftsman Nextec Multi-saw. The well-known toolmaker is giving buyers a combination jigsaw and reciprocating saw. It is powered by a 12-volt lithium-ion battery that can drive the unit to cut in a variety of places difficult to reach by any single tool.
- Microsoft's Photosyth. This free software from Microsoft allows people to create a browsable 3D model based on a series of related photographs. The software stitches the pictures together, creating the model based on overlapping elements of the images.
- Amazon.com's Kindle. An e-book reader from the famous online bookseller, the Kindle allows people to read books, newspapers, and other documents on a thin, light digital device. It has been panned by some, while others have written rapturously about it. Either way, it is sparking innovation in e-readers.
- The Around View monitor from Nissan's Infiniti division is designed to give drivers a 360-degree view around their cars while parking and backing up. The system features a series of ultra-wide-angle high-resolution cameras that produced images that are aggregated to give the driver a top view of the car and the area around it. It is hoped that the monitor will save lives, especially those of children, who are difficult to see from inside a car, especially when they are behind a vehicle while a driver is backing up.
- The Caroma Profile dual flush toilet. This system pipes gray water from a bathroom's sink into the toilet's tank, cutting down on water wastage.