While we may live in an age where new products and technology are constantly being churned out, it’s important to distinguish between new iterations of basically the same technology and enormous leaps forward in engineering. Thomas Edison was a champion of the latter type of innovation and was such a creative and intuitive inventor that now the highly prestigious Edison Award is given to applicants who have thought up new devices that truly can change the world around us.
Thomas Edison was no normal inventor; a creative and mechanical genius, Edison managed to rack up a still unsurpassed 1,093 patents in his lifetime, many of which crossed an impressive variety industries and improved everything from modern electric power to telecommunications to motion picture technology. Here are a few of the inventions that more recently received the Edison award and are a testament to our rapidly changing time.
The i-LIMB Hand earned its makers at Touch Bionics the Edison prize as a result of being the first successful attempt at creating a prosthetic hand with five individually powered fingers that can be directly controllable by its owner through electrical signals in the brain. The device functions using electrodes that are attached to the surface of the skin in the forearm and meant to pick up electrical signals generated by muscle movement. This technology bridges the gap between the remaining limb and the i-LIMB hand and turns a phantom limb into a full-fledged functional one.
The creators of the Worldwide Telescope also earned themselves an Edison Award for their work in making space exploration accessible even to those without the means to access expensive equipment. So long as you have a computer, WWT allows people to access the available universe via computer by utilizing data provided by the best information and images from both space and Earth-based telescopes. This makes it possible for users to explore stars, planets, and moons as they orbit the Earth by gaining access to the information gleaned from some of the most technologically advances telescopes in the world.
While the Nintendo brand may be less associated with innovation and more with supplying mindless entertainment to children, Wii Fit actually received the Edison award for its ability to pave new paths in terms of what video game consoles can be used for. The product became extremely popular among people who enjoy exercising but don’t want to leave home and join a gym or commute to a workout facility on a regular basis. Not only does Wii Fit help people to avoid travel time, but they can easily set goals and track their progress, plus they can enjoy new workout mode such as yoga, aerobics, balance games and strength training.
Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple’s iPhone received an Edison Award for its huge success and its ability to legitimately change the world by making portable computing and constant internet access not only a hot commodity, but a basic necessity in our contemporary world. The iPod was billed as an iPod, phone, and internet device all in one originally, but we know now that the handheld smartphone has become much more than that in the past decade.