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Time Magazine: Best Inventions of 2002

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  • NHNE
    NHNE News List Current Members: 751 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... EDITOR S COMMENT: Along with creating an interesting
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 26, 2002
      NHNE News List
      Current Members: 751
      Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message.



      Along with creating an interesting list of inventions (many of which have
      already been mentioned on this list), Time Magazine's "Best Inventions of
      2002" also contains links to many of the websites that promote and/or sell
      the inventions listed.

      --- David Sunfellow


      Time Magazine
      November 18, 2002 Issue




      When high school student Ryan Patterson, 18, saw a deaf woman trying to
      order food at a Burger King, he had a eureka moment: Why not create a device
      that translates sign language into text? Armed with that idea and a leather
      golf glove, Patterson created a device that senses its wearer's hand
      movements and transmits them wirelessly to a tiny handheld monitor, where
      they appear as words. The device won Patterson a top prize at the Siemens
      Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition.

      Availability: Prototype
      To Learn More: www.siemens-foundation.org



      Wonder what your dog is really thinking? Japanese toymaker Takara claims it
      can get you in touch with your inner canine through its new Bowlingual. A
      radio microphone attaches to Fido's collar, and a handheld receiver
      "translates" his yelps, growls and whines into such phrases as "I can't
      stand it," "How boring" and "I'm lonely." How does it work? Samples of dog
      noises were collected, interpreted by animal behaviorists and stored in a
      doggie database. When your dog barks, the sound is beamed to the handheld
      and matched to the database. When in doubt, take him for a walk.

      Availability: Only in Japan, $100
      To Learn More: http://www.takaratoys.co.jp/english



      Two years ago, IBM researcher Ismail Haritaoglu found himself at a Tokyo
      train station, unable to make heads or tails of the kanji lettering in the
      posted routes and timetables. Next time he'll be ready. His InfoScope snaps
      a picture of a street sign and ships it over a wireless network to a remote
      computer that extracts the text and beams back a translation -- all in less
      than 15 seconds. Haritaoglu is working on a similar service for GPS-equipped
      cell phones that would offer travel tips.

      Availability: Prototype
      To Learn More: http://www.almaden.ibm.com



      The car of the future looks something like this: It has no engine, no
      steering column and no brake pedal. It requires no gasoline, emits no
      pollution (just a little water vapor) and yet handles like a
      high-performance Porsche. It might sound like an environmentalist's fantasy,
      but there it was on display at the Paris Auto Show last September: the
      Hy-wire, a politically correct, fully functional prototype that General
      Motors claims could be road ready by 2010. Other car manufacturers --
      including Toyota, Honda and Ford -- are working on post-fossil-fuel
      automobiles, but only GM has rethought the car from the ground up, adopting
      an impressive array of advanced technologies invented both in Detroit and
      very far from it. Instead of an internal-combustion engine, for example, the
      Hy-wire is powered by fuel cells like those used in the orbiting space
      station. Power is generated by an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and
      oxygen that yields as its by-product only heat and H2O. No smelly exhaust,
      no smog, no greenhouse gases.

      Gone too are the cables and mechanical links that have held together cars
      since the dawn of the automobile age a century ago. Instead, the steering
      and braking are fully electronic, using techniques pioneered in fly-by-wire
      aircraft cockpits. In place of the steering column is a small color screen
      and two handgrips. To accelerate, you twist the grips. To apply the brakes,
      you squeeze them. To turn left or right, you move the grips up or down.

      Instead of a rearview mirror, there's a camera that projects an image of the
      road you have traveled, along with such driving data as speed and
      hydrogen-fuel levels. Because the car is fully programmable, drivers can set
      their performance preferences. (Brakes: soft or hard? Engine: sporty or fuel

      Eliminating all the mechanical controls frees up the space where an engine
      would normally reside; in the Hy-wire prototype you can see straight through
      the front of the car. Without a steering column, designers can place the
      controls anywhere in the car for maximum comfort and safety -- even in the

      The heart of the Hy-wire, however, is the aluminum, skateboard-like chassis
      that runs the length of the vehicle. Nestled within it are the fuel cells,
      an electric motor, tanks of compressed hydrogen and all the electronics.
      Because the fiber-glass body is basically a shell, different models can be
      swapped like cell-phone covers. So you could in theory drive a sports car on
      the weekends and change it into a minivan to haul the kids to school.

      Of course, the Hy-wire is just a prototype, and getting the first production
      units on the road by 2010 would require the notoriously sluggish auto
      industry to shift gears a lot faster than usual. For one thing, the roadside
      infrastructure that fuels and services today's gas guzzlers would have to be
      redesigned to dispense hydrogen and reprogram faulty control systems. But if
      the result were a fleet of safe, fuel-efficient, nonpolluting cars and
      trucks that reduced or eliminated the world's dependence on fossil fuel, it
      would be worth the effort.



      Tired of having to wear a cell phone on your belt wherever you go? In the
      future, you may not have to. Two British researchers have developed a
      prototype "phone tooth" that can be embedded in a molar and receive
      cell-phone calls. The signals are translated into vibrations that travel
      from the tooth to your skull to your inner ear -- where only you can hear
      them. Great for giving instructions to spies and NFL quarterbacks. Not so
      great for the rest of us, because while our teeth may talk to us, we can't
      talk back to them.

      Availability: Prototype
      To Learn More: http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk



      Imagine a jet engine that doesn't pollute the atmosphere, flies at seven
      times the speed of sound and doesn't carry any fuel. Sound like a blue-sky
      pipe dream? One day last July, 300 km above the South Australian Desert,
      that dream became a reality in the form of the HyShot scramjet. A scramjet
      (that's top-gun shorthand for "supersonic ramjet") is a jet engine that is
      powered by oxygen it scoops out of the air as it flies, so it's not weighed
      down by a fuel tank (though it needs an initial boost to get going). This
      summer's launch represents the first time a scramjet has flown outside of a
      wind tunnel. It will take years of work before scramjets are available for
      practical uses, but they could eventually revolutionize space launches and
      commercial flights. At Mach 7, New York City to Tokyo is just a two-hour

      Availability: Alas, commercial flights are still many years away
      To Learn More: http://www.mech.uq.edu.au/hyper/hyshot



      Why settle for two-wheeled scooters when you can have three? The Trikke may
      look a little silly, with its oversized polyurethane wheels and its odd,
      swiveling action. But it's a serious scooter, made of aircraft-grade
      aluminum (at the same Chinese factory that manufactures the popular Razor
      scooter), and it offers exceptional stability and dependable,
      handlebar-mounted brakes. Trikkes are a surprise hit in Hollywood, where
      Jennifer Aniston, Timothy Hutton and David Spade have all been spotted
      riding on them.

      Availability: Now, $200 to $300
      To Learn More: http://www.trikke.com



      If you thrill to getting from point A to point B while incurring maximum
      bodily risk, your ride is here: the Wheelman. Imagine strapping your feet to
      a clown-sized motorcycle, and you will get the basic idea. You steer with
      your weight, control the speed with a handheld throttle and pray with all
      your might.

      Availability: Now, from $1,200
      To Learn More: http://www.wheelman.com.au



      If cell phones are wireless, why aren't the headsets that go with them? More
      and more of them are, thanks to the new Bluetooth technology developed by a
      consortium of electronics manufacturers to connect various digital
      components over short distances. This year brought a slew of Bluetooth
      earpieces from Jabra, Motorola, Nokia Plantronics and Sony Ericsson. Now you
      can walk around town with your cell phone tucked away in your pocket or
      briefcase and a tiny headset tucked into your ear. The biggest drawback
      (besides looking like a Secret Service agent): the headsets need to be
      charged regularly, just like your cell phone.

      Availability: Now, $99 to $250
      To Learn More: http://www.bluetooth.com



      Democracy is about giving everybody a voice, but that's not so easy if
      there's only one microphone. Enter the Sputmik, a colorful gadget designed
      to let anybody who wants to take the floor at a public meeting or lecture.
      Developed as a collaboration between Design Continuum, based in Boston, and
      M.I.T., the Sputmik (it's a pun on Sputnik) is a basketball-size, completely
      wireless microphone that's well padded and easy to handle so crowds can pass
      it overhead like a beach ball at a rock concert or even toss it from person
      to person.

      Availability: Prototype
      To Learn More: http://www.dcontinuum.com




      We've been hearing about nanotechnology for years, but this fall it finally
      landed in our lap -- literally. These pants look and feel ordinary, but they
      have undergone a special chemical treatment to give them "nanowhiskers" --
      millions of tiny fibers one hundred-thousandth of an inch long -- that help
      them repel spills. Eddie Bauer and Lee, among others, are gambling that the
      fabric will give them a leg up on the competition.

      Availability: Now, $35 for Lee Performance Khakis
      To Learn More: http://www.nano-tex.com



      When the temperature drops, music lovers are often forced to choose between
      unzipping their jacket, thus exposing themselves to arctic blasts, and
      listening to the same set of songs over and over until they pray for
      frostbite. With the Burton AG Clone MD Jacket, you don't have to choose.
      Designed for snowboarders, the jacket is made with a Sony Mini-Disc and
      digital music player sewn right into its fabric. The player's controls are
      touch-sensitive fabric patches on the jacket's sleeve, so you can control
      the music just by pressing your arm.

      Availability: December, $999
      To Learn More: http://www.burton.com



      Ah, cashmere. It's toasty warm, deliciously soft, wonderfully luxurious ‹
      and now water repellent. Every fiber in this $1,100 "windbreaker" introduced
      last spring is coated in Teflon, though you wouldn't know this to wear it.
      The chemical treatment is done when the raw cashmere is first washed (to
      make it soft for knitting), so there's no discernible difference ‹ until you
      flick water at it and watch the droplets run off.

      Availability: Now, in two new styles, $850 and $1,075
      To Learn More: http://www.lutzandpatmos.com


      HOME & SAFETY:


      Nothing sets the mood for work or play better than the perfect light, so why
      limit yourself to dim or bright, fluorescent or incandescent? The new
      Therapie lamps look a little like Rothko paintings, with their gorgeous
      reds, yellows and greens softly melting into one another. Housed in
      brushed-aluminum frames, they range from 2 ft. to 6 1Ž2 ft. long and double
      as postmodern works of art. But they are more than just pretty lights.
      Powered by the same fluorescent bulbs used for light therapy (to treat
      seasonal affective disorder during winter months, for example), the lamps
      may actually brighten your spirits. And the colored gels can be mixed and
      matched, so you can choose a yellow-green combination to energize you in the
      kitchen or a purple-red to get things started in the bedroom.

      Availability: Now, $1,300 to $1,700
      To Learn More: http://www.snowlabdesign.com



      Are you having a love-hate affair with your blankets? Do you throw them off
      at 2 a.m. because you're too hot and then desperately cocoon at 6 a.m. to
      warm up? Perhaps you need Outlast's new Adaptive Comfort bedding. It
      introduces climate control where it counts -- under the covers. The pillow,
      mattress pad and duvet cover look quite conventional -- boring even, as they
      come only in white. But each is sewn with a layer of tiny capsules, called
      thermacules, that absorb, store and release heat as needed to regulate
      temperature. A version of this "phase change" material, originally developed
      for NASA for use in astronaut gloves, has appeared in ski boots, ski helmets
      and other cold-weather gear.

      Availability: Now, $29.99-$179.99
      To Learn More: http://www.outlast.com



      Singles bars have never been risk free, but so-called date-rape drugs give
      you one more reason to be cautious. After a friend was attacked by a man who
      may have spiked her drink, Francisco Guerra developed a cardboard drink
      coaster that can identify two of the most popular date-rape drugs: gamma
      hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and ketamine. Just place a drop of liquid on the
      coaster, and rub it in with your finger. If the spot turns blue, toss that
      cocktail. Fifteen million of these coasters have already been distributed;
      look for them at 7-Elevens around Christmastime.

      Availability: Now, 40¢ a coaster
      To Learn More: http://www.drinksafetech.com



      No one ever bothers to reinvent the wheel, but chairs are another matter.
      Take the new EVA DVA Child Chairs, for example. Made of the same soft,
      nontoxic foam used in athletic mats, they come in vibrant colors and can be
      stacked like oversize blocks to create free-form sculptures or geometric
      room partitions. Available in 12 color combinations, including orange-red,
      green-blue and yellow-gray, the chairs are designed for children ages 3 to 6
      but are supposed to be sturdy enough to hold adults weighing as much as 300
      lbs. That might be a tight squeeze.

      Availability: Now, $80 a chair
      To Learn More: http://www.evadva.com



      If you close your eyes, fire a squirt gun around the room and listen
      carefully, you'll hear a different noise depending on what was hit (wall,
      rug, sleeping cat). That's the principle behind ELADIN, the newest idea in
      mine detection. By shooting water into a minefield and monitoring sounds,
      the system can detect and disarm explosives without setting them off.
      There's certainly no shortage of targets: tens of millions of mines lie
      buried in war zones around the world.

      Availability: Prototype only
      To Learn More: http://www.eladin.umr.edu



      Let's face it, vacuuming sucks. That's why a group of M.I.T. brainiacs
      created Roomba, a robot that vacuums your house for you. Running on
      rechargeable batteries, Roomba roams your house entirely on its own,
      swooping up dust bunnies and stray Cheerios and zipping under beds and
      couches where mere humans can't reach. Its sensors keep it from bumping into
      walls and furniture or falling off staircases. When it finishes a room,
      Roomba beeps proudly and turns itself off.

      Availability: Now, $199
      To Learn More: http://www.roombavac.com



      The World Trade Center attack created a lot of interest in ways to get
      people out of skyscrapers in a hurry. Here's a novel solution: the AMES-1,
      an evacuation system that looks like an amusement-park water slide. A Kevlar
      rescue chute is installed in the outer wall of a building. In an emergency
      the unit springs open and the chute uncoils to the ground. It takes about 19
      seconds to slide to safety from the top floor of an 11-story building.

      Availability: Now, $20,000
      To Learn More: http://www.ames-1.com



      Not just another bagless vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC07 has a brand-new way
      to take grime out of your carpet. It's called cyclonic separation. Whirling
      dirt and air within its eight cylindrical cyclones at speeds up to 600
      m.p.h., the machine uses centrifugal force to trap the dirt and expel the
      air. Because there is no filter to clog, the DC07 never loses its oomph. Its
      "liquid steel" shell is made from the same plastic-metal polycarbonate as
      riot shields. And emptying the collected dirt is as simple as pulling the

      Availability: Now, $399
      To Learn More: http://www.dyson.com


      ROBOTS & TECH:


      A new substance called aerogel, invented in the 1930s but recently refined
      by NASA, has been certified as the lightest solid in the world -- yes, it's
      in the Guinness Book of World Records. Weighing in at a mere .00011 lbs. per
      cu. in. (thin air weighs about .00004 lbs. per cu. in.), aerogel resembles
      smoke that has been frozen into place -- it's cloudy, translucent and
      virtually weightless. It's also surprisingly tough. Chemically similar to
      glass, aerogel is used on the space shuttle to trap tiny spaceborne
      particles traveling at high speed so they can be brought back to Earth for

      Availability: Now
      To Learn More: www.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/features/aerogel.html



      Ever want to build a cathedral? Underwater? Change your clothes, your face,
      your whole body? Fly? You can't do any of that stuff in real life, but you
      can do it all and more in Second Life, a startlingly lifelike 3-D virtual
      world now evolving on the Internet. Unlike other shared online adventures,
      Second Life isn't about slaying monsters or zapping aliens. It's about
      building things, meeting people and expressing yourself. Even if you already
      have a life, you may want to get a second one.

      Availability: Summer 2003, for a monthly fee
      To Learn More: http://www.lindenlab.com



      Why is it that snaps taken with a $500 digital camera often aren't as sharp
      as those from a $20 disposable? Because unlike the light-sensitive chemicals
      in ordinary analog film, each sensor on a digital chip saves only one-third
      of the color data it receives -- either red, green or blue, but not all
      three at once. With the new Foveon X3 technology, however, three sensors are
      stacked on top of one another, so that each pixel absorbs the full color
      spectrum. Result: a 3.5-megapixel camera using Foveon technology will
      produce images as clear as today's 7 MP models.

      Availability: December 2002
      To Learn More: http://www.foveon.com



      In 1997 a team of Japanese engineers dared to imagine a computer so powerful
      that it could keep track of everything in the world at once -- steaming rain
      forests in Bolivia, factories in Mexico belching smoke, the jet stream, the
      Gulf Stream, the works. What's more, they dared to build it. On March 11,
      2002, when they turned it on, the engineers did something no mere mortal had
      ever done before: they created the Earth.

      Or at least the next best thing. The Earth Simulator, the most powerful
      supercomputer ever built, was designed for a single purpose: to create a
      virtual twin of our home planet. Before the Earth Simulator arrived, the
      fastest computer in the world was an American military machine that can
      perform 7.2 trillion calculations per second. The Earth Simulator runs at
      more than 35 trillion calculations per second, almost five times faster. In
      fact, it's as powerful as the next 12 fastest supercomputers in the world
      put together. Located at a vast, newly built facility in Yokohama, the Earth
      Simulator is the size of four tennis courts. The price tag? Around $350

      It was worth every penny. By plugging real-life climate data from satellites
      and ocean buoys into the Earth Simulator, researchers can create a computer
      model of the entire planet, then scroll it forward in time to see what will
      happen to our environment. Scientists have already completed a forecast of
      global ocean temperatures for the next 50 years, and a full set of climate
      predictions will be ready by year's end. Soon, instead of speculating about
      the possible environmental impact of, say, the Kyoto accord, policymakers
      will be able to plug its parameters into the virtual Earth, then skip ahead
      1,000 years to get a handle on what effect those policies might have. That
      kind of concrete data could revolutionize environmental science. By
      digitally cloning the Earth, we might just be able to save it.



      In 2004, the hottest car in the world will have a top speed of 10 ft. per
      min. -- if, that is, the world happens to be Mars. NASA is currently testing
      two robotic rovers to send to the Red Planet in a mission set to launch next
      summer. The two solar-powered vehicles will travel up to 330 ft. -- compared
      with Sojourner's 16 ft.-- a day while using their nine cameras and three
      spectrometers to make scientific observations. First on the agenda? Looking
      for traces of water.

      Availability: January 2004
      To Learn More: http://fido.jpl.nasa.gov/



      Want cheap, green electricity? The Australians have a simple answer. First,
      build a 20,000-acre greenhouse to trap and heat air. Then build a colossal
      tower 1 km (.62 miles) tall in the middle of it. The warm air from the
      greenhouse will rise through the tower as it would through a chimney,
      turning turbines and generating enough electricity to power 200,000
      Australian homes. It may sound like science fiction, but the project is on
      track to get approved by the Australian government. If completed, the $800
      million solar tower will be the tallest man-made structure in the world.

      Availability: 2005
      To Learn More: http://www.enviromission.com.au



      If computer monitors can shrink to almost nothing, why not keyboards? They
      soon may. Two companies have developed prototype "virtual" keyboards
      designed to accompany portable devices like PDAs, tablet PCs and cell
      phones. Here's how they work: a laser beam projects a glowing red outline of
      a keyboard on a desk or other flat surface. A sensor like those used in
      digital cameras monitors the reflection of an infrared light projected on
      the same spot. It can tell which "keys" you are trying to strike by the way
      that reflection changes. Someday, similar keyboards may be built into the
      gadgets they work with, so that they disappear when not in use.

      Availability: 2003
      To Learn More: http://www.canesta.com


      TOYS & SPORTS:


      Even the most cautious backyard pilot must eventually preside over a
      radio-controlled air disaster or two. For some enthusiasts, that's the best
      part. For the rest of us, there's the Power Air Surfer, a new
      radio-controlled airplane that's almost impossible to crash, thanks to an
      innovative design. The Power Air Surfer's two 80-cm wings and double
      propellers make it ultrastable at altitudes up to 30 m, and it always glides
      in for a feather-soft landingÐno matter how hard you try to make it crash.

      Availability: Now, $75
      To Learn More: http://www.hasbro.com



      Scuba divers have always had a soft spot for high-tech accessories. Take,
      for example, these bizarre-looking fins, designed to let divers fine-tune
      the position and even the flexibility of their blades. The Oscillating
      Propulsion System whips through water like an eel; a little weight inside
      the tip helps build momentum so you can cover long distances faster without
      working too hard. The Twin Foils are better for maneuvering in tight spots,
      reducing the chance that you'll kick the coral. The two fins share a common
      foot pocket, so you can quickly swap one for the other.

      Availability: Now; $135 for a pair of foot pockets; $150 to $220 for a set
      of blades
      To Learn More: http://www.forcefin.com



      She may look like a casting reject from Village of the Damned, but Cindy
      Smart is no creepy alien-girl. Well, she is a little creepy. With two 16-bit
      microprocessors, voice-recognition software and a digital camera lodged in
      her chest, she takes interactive playtime to a new level. The doll can do
      simple math, recognize basic shapes and colors, respond to 70 preprogrammed
      questions and read flash cards (as long as they're within her vocabulary of
      650 English words and a smattering of German, Spanish, Italian and French
      ones). If all this gets to be too much, you can always switch Cindy off and
      braid her white-blond hair.

      Availability: Now, $99
      To Learn More: http://www.toyquest.com


      MINI SUB

      Many of us feel the call of the deep, but few of us are willing to face the
      cold, wet and occasionally shark-infested realities of scuba diving. That's
      why we need Spyfish, a gadget for divers who aren't quite ready to take the
      plunge. Spyfish is a battery-powered minisubmarine tricked out with cameras
      and floodlights and operated by wireless remote control. It trails a slender
      cable behind it that transmits whatever it sees back to a monitor topside,
      so you can rummage through Davy Jones' locker while sunning yourself on deck
      and sipping a mai tai. The product of years of research and testing, Spyfish
      is elegant and streamlined but rugged enough to withstand depths of 150 m
      and conditions too cold or dangerous for a human diver.

      Availability: Late in 2003; around $14,900
      To Learn More: http://www.h2eye.com



      If you're skiing, you're probably on vacation, and if you're on vacation,
      you're probably tired of using your head. Why not think with your feet for a
      change? Head's new i.C 300 skis are made from a special material that reacts
      to physical stress by generating electricity. Each i.C 300 ski has a
      computer chip in it that monitors its electrical output, thus allowing the
      ski to make an educated guess about the condition of the snow you're skiing
      on and how hard you're turning. The chip then feeds that signal back into
      the ski, which reacts instantly by either relaxing or stiffening. Result:
      you get more control and a smoother ride.

      Availability: Now, $750
      To Learn More: http://www.head.com



      Karl Pope has been searching for the perfect surfboard since he took to the
      waves in the mid-1950s. In 1964 he introduced the Travelboard, a three-piece
      model, with partner Tom Morey (who went on to invent the boogie board in
      1971). Four years ago, Pope introduced the Bisect, a two-piece board that is
      even easier to transport; just pull it out of the trunk, snap it together,
      and head for the water. His latest innovation: the Bisect Hollow Carbon
      Stealth (as in Stealth fighter). It's pressure-molded out of a carbon-fiber
      composite ‹ a jet-age fabric woven with graphite and impregnated with
      epoxyÐthat's 20% lighter than conventional foam ‹ and-fiber-glass long
      boards and, Pope claims, "at least 10 times stronger." It's also 125% more

      Availability: Now, $1,795
      To Learn More: http://www.bisect.com



      Ever since the advent of the Swiss army knife, mankind has sought to fit
      more and more tools into smaller and smaller devices. The latest triumph of
      ingenuity over simplicity is the i-Quip, which puts an extraordinary number
      of traditional gadgets ‹ and quite a few new ones ‹ into a compact design.
      The i-Quip is divided into two separate pods: one holds quotidian tools
      (blades, scissors, screwdrivers, etc.), the other such high-tech necessities
      as a digital compass, a barometer, a clock, a flashlight and an altimeter.

      Availability: Now, $250
      To Learn More: http://www.schradeknives.com



      All good things must come to an end -- but do they have to end so soon? A
      new bubble-blowing formula called Catch-A-Bubble extends the lifespan of the
      average soap bubble from a few dozen seconds to about five minutes. The
      secret of Catch-A-Bubble is a chemical that toughens when it comes in
      contact with air, producing sturdier, more resilient bubbles that can be
      touched, handled, tossed and even -- with the right delicate touch --
      stacked on top of one another.

      Availability: Now, $4
      To Learn More: http://www.spinmaster.com




      Charles Arntzen is convinced that the reddish, powdery substance he holds in
      his hand will make the world a safer place. Arntzen, an Arizona State
      University biologist, has been working for nearly five years to create what
      is basically freeze-dried tomato juice ‹ but not from any ordinary tomatoes.
      This fruit (yes, tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables) carries a gene from a
      strain of the E. coli bacterium. Some strains of E. coli can cause violent
      diarrhea and death. Swigged down in reconstituted juice, however, a protein
      made by the E. coli gene should act as a vaccine, priming the immune system
      to recognize and fight off the real thing.

      What's the advantage? Conventional vaccines are costly to make and
      distribute in the impoverished Third World countries that need them most.
      That's why Arntzen and others began thinking about using plants instead of
      needles, creating vaccines that would be easy to grow locally in, say,
      Vietnam or Bangladesh. He focused on diarrhea, because, says Arntzen,
      "diarrheal diseases kill at least 2 million people in the world every year,
      most of them children." And he chose tomatoes because greenhouse-grown
      tomatoes can't easily pass their altered genes to other crops and because
      tomato-processing equipment is relatively cheap. It would be easier still
      just to take whole tomatoes and eat them, but that could be a disaster, says
      Arntzen. Individual tomatoes come in different sizes with varying levels of
      protein, and uniformity of dosage is key to an effective vaccine. "I'll
      always regret calling these ‘edible vaccines,'" he says, "because that's
      just the image it conjures up." Arntzen hopes to test his tomato juice on
      animals within the year, with human trials to follow. He's also thinking
      about vaccines for cholera, hepatitis, human papilloma virus and measles.
      And he's not alone: some four dozen labs around the world are working on
      their own versions of what Arntzen would prefer to call "plant-derived"
      vaccines, based on tomatoes, bananas and potatoes. Within a few years, some
      of the planet's most pernicious killers could be in retreat ‹ and it won't
      hurt a bit.



      Virtual Fetus Ultrasound images allow expectant parents to see grainy images
      of their developing fetus. Soon they may also be able to "feel" the fetus,
      thanks to a new PC-based ultrasound device called the e-Touch Sono. The
      system combines data from a regular ultrasound machine with a force-feedback
      mechanism like those used in some video games. Touch the image of a fetal
      cheek with a hand-held stylus, and signals sent from the computer to
      mechanical motors in the stylus will simulate the sensation of pressing
      against soft skin. Move the stylus across the fetus's face, and you will
      feel the contours of its nose, lips and ears. Watch the baby's form appear
      onscreen as you "touch" it with the stylus. What's next? 3-D sculptures that
      would-be parents can bring home months before their due date.

      Availability: Now, $250 to $350
      To Learn More: http://www.novint.com



      Tired of seeing its venerable Listerine mouthwash (first introduced in 1914)
      getting chewed up in the market by various lozenges, drops and gums, Pfizer
      this year introduced Cool Mint Listerine PocketPaks, tissue-thin strips that
      melt in your mouth and deliver a bracing, breath-freshening punch. They were
      an instant hit, with more than 100 million sold.

      Availability: Now, $1.49 a pack
      To Learn More: http://www.prodhelp.com



      The perfect birth control device, when someone invents it, will be totally
      invisible yet impossible to forget: no pills, no shots, no condoms. This
      year's newest entry, OrthoEvra, is not perfect, but it's close. It's a patch
      about the size of a matchbook, but as thin as a piece of tape, that delivers
      the same estrogen and progestin found in a standard birth-control pill. The
      hormones pass from the patch through the skin and into the bloodstream. It's
      waterproof and won't fall off; just find a discreet place to stick it on
      your body, and change it once a week. If only it were invisible.

      Availability: Now, $25 to $40 a month
      To Learn More: http://www.orthoevra.com



      These stylish shelters were a big hit at the Burning Man festival this
      summer, but they're not just for fun. Fashioned from a single piece of
      laminated paperboard (plus a floor and a door), they are sturdy, wind
      resistant, waterproof, well insulated and require no special skills or tools
      to assemble -- perfect, according to their inventor, for use as temporary
      housing in a war or a natural disaster. The Shade Pod, an open-air version
      with legs, is just right for lawn parties.

      Availability: Next summer, starting at $745
      To Learn More: http://www.icosavillage.net


      SHOP 2000

      What's 18 ft. wide, fully automated and open 24 hours a day? Despite its
      name (which already seems a little out of date), the Shop 2000 is the
      cutting edge of robotic retail: a vending machine with the inventory of a
      minimart. The coin- and credit-card-operated vendor carries up to 200 items,
      from olive oil to computer discs to sandwiches to toothpaste (storing the
      perishables at a frosty 35°F). There's no smile with your service, but you
      do get the fun of watching a robotic arm grab your purchase. With
      convenience stores reporting a shortage of labor, don't be surprised if one
      opens on your block sometime soon.

      Availability: So far, only one in the U.S., in Washington
      To Learn More: http://www.shop2000online.com


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