Here are the 2017 innovations that changed the world

Image: Morgan’s Inspiration Island; eSight; Petit Pli; Manu Prakash/Stanford

2017 may have been a rough year, but there were plenty of inventions, innovations, and gadgets that made the world just a slightly better place.

From global health to social justice to humanitarian aid, a slew of scientists, technologists, and activists came together this year to create impactful solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

In no particular order, here are 30 innovations that made a tangible difference in 2017. For even more inspiration, check out our list of incredible innovations from 2016.

1. The 20-cent paper toy that can help diagnose diseases

This paper device, which only costs 20 cents to make, can help scientists and doctors diagnose diseases like malaria and HIV within minutes — no electricity required.

The Paperfuge, developed by Stanford assistant professor of bioengineering Manu Prakash, is a hand-powered centrifuge that was inspired by a whirligig toy. It can hold blood samples on a disc, and by pulling the strings back and forth, it spins the samples at extremely fast rates to separate blood from plasma, preparing them for disease testing.

It could prove revolutionary for rural areas in developing countries, and save lives in the process.

2. The soft robot sleeve that can restart a failing heart

Researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital created this customizable soft robot sleeve that can wrap around a failing heart and squeeze it, allowing blood to keep flowing throughout the body. In tests conducted on pigs, the device allowed the animals’ hearts to start pumping again.

The innovation is still in testing stages, but the goal is to one day be able to use it in order to save human lives. According to Harvard, heart failure affects 41 million people worldwide.

3. A Facebook translation bot for refugees

Tarjimly is a Facebook translation bot that connects refugees with volunteer translators, wherever they are in the world. Whether they need to speak with doctors, aid workers, legal representatives, or other crucial services, users can tap into the power of Facebook Messenger to get real-time, potentially life-saving, translations on the spot.

4. Smart glasses that help legally blind people see

The eSight 3 is a set of electronic glasses that can drastically improve a legally blind person’s vision, helping them see and perform daily activities with ease.

The device fits over a user’s eyes and glasses like a headset, using a camera to send images to tiny dual screens in front of their eyes. Two sensors adjust the focus, while a handheld remote lets the user zoom and contrast, among other functions. For a user with 20/400 vision, for example, it can improve their eyesight up to 20/25. 

5. A cardboard drone for humanitarian aid

Image: OTHERLAB

Otherlab, a San Francisco-based engineering research and development lab, developed what it calls the world’s most advanced industrial paper airplane. The cardboard gliders are made with a biodegradable material and equipped with GPS and other electronics, allowing them to be dropped by a plane and deliver two pounds of life-saving materials without needing to be retrieved. 

6. 3D-printed sex organs to help blind students learn

Image: Courtesy of Benetech

Holistic, inclusive sex ed is hard to come by as it is. For blind students, it’s even harder. That’s why advocates and researchers at Benetech created 18 3D figures that show sex organs during a various states of arousal, letting students “feel” their way through sex education. Benetech partnered with LightHouse for the Blind and Northern Illinois University to create the models.

7. A texting service that contacts Congress for you in 2 minutes

2017 was a year of resistance, and one of the most tangible ways of taking action has been contacting your reps. Enter Resistbot, a simple service that lets you text RESIST to 50409 or message the accompanying Facebook bot in order to help you find the right members of Congress and send your message to them directly.

8. The app for detained immigrants to contact their family

Image: Notifica/Huge

The Notifica app helps undocumented immigrants who get detained or caught up in raids to send out secure messages to a designated support network of family and friends.

9. A mobile-based ambulance taxi program in Tanzania

Vodafone has developed an innovative ambulance taxi program in the rural Lake Zone of Tanzania, using the power of mobile phones. The program helps pregnant women in health emergencies dial a special hotline number, through which health workers connect them to a local network of vetted taxi drivers who can get them quickly to clinics when there are few ambulances available.

The drivers are paid by the organization through the mobile money system M-Pesa, so it’s free for users.

10. An app that gets kids moving — and help other kids, too

Image: Lili Sams / Mashable

The UNICEF Kid Power app is a standalone app that expands on the organization’s fitness bands program, helping kids convert their daily steps into life-saving nutrition for malnourished children in the developing world. The app counts your steps — every 2,500 steps earns you a point, and 10 points “unlock” a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) package that UNICEF and sponsors will deliver to a child with severe acute malnutrition.

11. Facebook’s digital maps that help with disaster relief

Image: Facebook

In June, Facebook announced a new product called “disaster maps,” using Facebook data in disaster areas in order to send crucial information to aid organizations during and after crises. The information helps relief efforts get a bird’s eye view of who needs help, where, and what resources are needed.

12. The chatbot that wants to help you with your mental health 

Image: Woebot

Woebot is one of the first chatbots of its kind, using artificial intelligence to talk to you, help improve your mood, and even alleviate symptoms of depression. It’s not a replacement for a therapist by any means, but a Stanford University study showed that Woebot “led to significant reductions in anxiety and depression among people aged 18-28 years old.”

13. An app connecting refugees with crucial services

Image: RefAid

RefAid is an app that connects refugees with nearby services in education, health, legal aid, shelter and more by using their location. It originally started as a side project, but now more than 400 of the largest aid organizations in the world, including the Red Cross and Doctors of the World, all use it. 

14. A solar-powered tent designed for homeless people

Image: Scott Witter / Mashable

Earlier this year, 12 teens in San Fernando, California, joined forces with the nonprofit DIY Girls to invent a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack for homeless populations. They won a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop the tent, and presented their project at MIT in June.

15. The app that could help end female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) affects millions of women and girls around the world. In Kenya, where the procedure is illegal but still practiced due to cultural significance, a group of five teen girls  created the i-Cut app to fight back.

i-Cut allows users to alert authorities as a preventive measure, and also lets survivors send reports and find local rescue centers. The app earned them a place in the 2017 Technovation Challenge in August. 

16. An eyeglass accessory to alert deaf people of sound

Peri is an accessory that attaches to a deaf person’s eyeglasses and translates audio cues into visual ones. Inspired by first-person shooter games, in which the screen glows as your character is hit, Peri lights up in the direction of loud sounds.

It can help deaf and hard of hearing users not only with increased awareness, but also to avoid dangerous situations more easily. 

17. The tool that turns your extra computer power into bail money

Bail Bloc, created by a team at The New Inquiry, uses your computer’s spare power to help contribute to community bail funds, assisting people in jail and their families who can’t afford bail.  

Bail Bloc uses the power to mine a cryptocurrency called Monero, which is then converted into U.S. dollars to donate to the Bronx Freedom Fund and The Bail Project. No cryptocurrency knowledge required — all you have to do is run it in your computer’s background. 

18. This game-changing Braille literacy tool for kids

The Read Read is an innovative learning device that teaches blind people and those with low vision how to read Braille. Each tile has Braille lettering printed on metal to touch, and the device also reads the letter out loud along with how many dots it contains. This helps the user sound out each word they learn.

19. An air-powered wheelchair for kids with disabilities

Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a new, accessible water park in San Antonio, Texas, specifically designed for kids with disabilities. But what about kids who use electric wheelchairs? No problem — the theme park teamed up with the University of Pittsburgh to develop the PneuChair, a light, air-powered wheelchair that can get wet and only takes 10 minutes to charge.

20. The first gender-inclusive educational toy

Meet Sam, a new set of stacking dolls in which each layer shows a different stage of gender questioning and exploring. Created by Gender Creative Kids Canada, which calls the doll “the world’s first educational transgender toy,” Sam was designed with trans youth in mind. The creators hope it will help educate all children and their families.

Gender Creative Kids Canada launched a Kickstarter for the toy, and also released an e-book and accompanying video to introduce Sam to the world.

21. A robot lawyer for low-income communities

The chatbot DoNotPay offers users free legal aid for a range of issues, including helping refugees apply for asylum, guiding people in reporting harassment at work, and even aiding everyday consumers who want to fight corporations who try to take advantage of them.

22. These period-friendly boxers for trans men

Image: Courtesy of Pyramid Seven

A new company called Pyramid Seven launched a line of period-inclusive underwear for trans men, filling a much needed gap in the period-friendly underwear market. Each pair of boxers is stylish and includes an extra panel inside to support period products, like pads. Due to high demand, the line of underwear quickly sold out.

23. A revolutionary gene therapy treatment for cancer

An illustration of a white blood cell.

Image: Shutterstock / royaltystockphoto.com

Kymriah is a newly FDA-approved cancer gene therapy treatment from the drug company Novartis. It’s part of a new class of therapy called CAR-T, which is made by “harvesting a patient’s own disease-fighting T-cells, genetically engineering them to target specific proteins on cancer cells, and replacing them to circulate possibly for years, seeking out and attacking cancer,” according to Reuters.

It’s not cheap — it costs $475,000 per patient — but the results in patients with aggressive blood cancer are unprecedented. In fact, 83 percent of patients were cancer-free after three months with one dose (they continued to respond after six months, according to new reports).

24. The empowering hands-free breast pump

Willow is a wearable breast pump that allows people to pump hands-free and quietly. You can wear two of the pumps underneath your bra, so it’s discreet and allows you to multitask.

25. A wheelchair that allows its users to stand

The Laddroller is a wheelchair that helps its users stand. Designed by Greek architect Dimitrios Petrotos, the Laddroller uses four wheels, and can also navigate rough terrains. After 13 prototypes, it’s now awaiting regulatory approval to go to market.

26. A portable, reinvented IV pole

Image: Courtesy of IV Walk

IV-Walk is a reimagining of the traditional IV pole to grant its users more flexibility and range. It was designed by Alissa Rees, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 years old and had to stay attached to an IV pole for weeks at a time throughout her two years in the hospital.

“Stimulating mobility by using the IV-Walk speeds up recovery,” Rees says on her website. “Besides that, holding the pole is a cheerless way to present yourself to friends or family. Presenting yourself in a proper way can be important during a long stay in hospital.”

27. A solar-powered water delivery cart

Image: Watt-R

Watt-r is a solar-powered water delivery cart that aims to improve the experience for women and children, who often are the ones in developing countries to be tasked with gathering water for their families. The cart is still in development, but it will be able to carry a dozen 20-liter containers of water at a time, and solar power will allow it to move, according to Fast Company.

28. Clothes that expand as your child grows

Petit Pli is a line of clothes that grow with your child using expansion and growth technology. The garments are waterproof, lightweight, and gender-inclusive with pleated designs, allowing each item of clothing to grow up to seven sizes. It’s not only sustainable by reducing waste, but also can save families money on new clothes.

29. Nike’s professional sportswear hijab

Nike launched its Nike Pro Hijab worldwide this year, to further the company’s idea that “if you have a body, you’re an athlete.” Working with professional athletes who wear hijab, the product is made of single-layer mesh that’s breathable, stretchy, and easily customized for any sport.

30. GPS-enabled turtle eggs to help track poachers

Image: Paso Pacifico

According to the wildlife conservation nonprofit Paso Pacifico, poachers in Central America destroy 90 percent of endangered sea turtle nests to illegally sell the eggs, which are considered a delicacy. So the organization created the GPS-enabled “InvestEGGator Sea Turtle Eggs” — 3D-printed eggs that track poachers and reveal smuggling routes, which can help Paso Pacifico work with authorities and stop wildlife crime. The innovation has already won a number of awards.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/23/social-good-innovations-2017/

Everything we expect to see at Apple’s big iPhone 8 reveal

Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple’s next iPhones are almost here.

We’re just days away from what will be Apple’s most anticipated reveal in recent memory. On Tuesday morning, CEO Tim Cook will take the stage at the company’s Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino and show off three new iPhones. 

We’ll also get our first look at the next Apple Watch, Apple TV, and hear the latest updates on iOS and macOS High Sierra.

Beyond that, the event carries special meaning for Apple. Not only is it the company’s first public event in the theatre named for its storied founder, it’s also the 10-year anniversary of the original iPhone launch. Given that extra significance, we could be in for a tribute to that original launch or to Jobs himself. 

iPhone 8 or iPhone Edition?

There’s no question this is Apple’s most anticipated iPhone yet. The company’s been trying to keep its exact details under wraps, so of course we have a pretty solid idea of what it’s going to look like, thanks to a never-ending stream of leaks and rumors.

Physically, it’s expected to be about the same size as an iPhone 7, but with an edge-to-edge OLED display that’s bigger than what is currently on the iPhone 7 Plus. It won’t have a home button or Touch ID, and will likely use some kind of facial recognition tech to unlock.

A mockup of a new ‘copper gold’ color Apple is rumored to be introducing for the iPhone 8.

Image: mashable/raymond wong

Wireless and rapid-charging will be supported, and it will have dual rear-facing cameras — likely equipped with a depth sensor to better enable all those new augmented reality apps. It will probably come in a new color and cost at least $1,000, maybe much more

One thing we still aren’t sure of, though, is the name. 

Though most people, us included, have been calling it the iPhone 8, there’s a good chance Apple will eschew its typical naming conventions given that this phone marks the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone. iPhone X, iPhone Edition, and iPhone Pro have all been posited. 

As we get closer to the reveal, iPhone Edition is looking more and more likely but, as with so many Apple rumors, it’s hard to say with any certainty (my favorite dark horse candidate is still, simply, iPhone.) 

iPhone 7S + iPhone 7S Plus

Again, we can’t be sure of the name as some reports have indicated the iPhone 7’s immediate successor will be called “iPhone 8.” Regardless of what it’s called, this pair of phones will be much closer to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

The iPhone 7S and 7S Plus are expected to look much like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus .

Image: Aflo/REX/Shutterstock

The displays will likely be the same as the iPhone 7 line — no edge-to-edge display here. Though it’d be tempting to think of these phones as the compromise buy compared with the third ultra-premium iPhone, there will be some noticeable improvements.

The 7S and 7S Plus are expected to ship with the same rapid and wireless charging as the iPhone 8, but other than that it’s unlikely to be a major departure from the iPhone 7. It will have an LCD display, a home button, dual rear-facing cameras, and a starting price similar to that of the iPhone 7. 

It probably won’t come in any new colors, and may not even be available with a rose gold or jet black finish.

Apple Watch Series 3

While the three new iPhones will likely hog much of the spotlight on Tuesday, there’s other new hardware to look forward to, including what is likely a new Apple Watch. While it’s not usually the company’s sexiest product, Series 3 sounds like it’s set to be a big revamp.

Series 3 sounds like it’s set to be a big revamp

Most significantly, Apple is expected to add LTE connectivity to its wearable, marking the first time the Apple Watch can truly be independent of your iPhone. This could also have big implications for its fitness-tracking abilities, which we learned more about when Men’s Health visited Apple’s testing lab.

Apple will launch watchOS 4 alongside its new wearable, and it features a new mode for high intensity interval training. The new OS will even be able to connect directly to some types of gym equipment. 

On the outside, the new Apple Watch could have a new screen design, if Apple-watcher John Gruber’s sources are to be believed (Gruber himself says he “wouldn’t bet the house” on the rumor, so, grain of salt). But if turns out to be correct, it’d be the first major redesign since Apple first launched its watch in 2015.

4K Apple TV

As if a new Apple Watch and three-piece set of iPhones isn’t enough, we’re also due for a new Apple TV. Here, it’s not the design of the set-top box that has us excited (though expect it to at least be slimmer and speedier than the current 4th gen model released back in 2015).

The latest box will finally add support for 4K and HDR content. Given that there’s more 4K content available than ever (and HDR is slowly gaining ground), this will be a very welcome (and, frankly, overdue) update.

macOS High Sierra and iOS 11

Apple’s fall launch isn’t all about the hardware. MacOS High Sierra, which comes with a nicely revamped Photos app and a ton of under-the-hood improvements, will likely make its official debut.

Likewise, it looks like iOS 11 will finally be ready for everyone. We know most of what’s in the update, thanks to months of beta builds, but there are still a few unknowns. Apple has yet to reveal the specifics of its P2P messaging service for its Messages app, beyond what we briefly saw on the WWDC stage. 

Apple’s new P2P payments feature for Messages.

Image: apple

And while we we’ve seen a lot of ARKit-enabled augmented reality apps, there’s still a lot we haven’t heard about yet. Exactly how the new iPhone cameras will enhance iOS’ augmented reality features is also unclear. 

As always with Apple, nothing is certain until Tim Cook steps onto that stage. A few surprises are always on the table. Check back this Tuesday for Mashable’s live coverage from Cupertino.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/09/apple-iphone-8-event-what-to-expect/

Apple working on dedicated AI chip for iOS devices, report says

Image: lili sams/mashable

Apple’s reportedly working on a new kind of chip potentially for future iOS devices that’ll be used just for processing AI, Bloomberg reports.

Bloomberg says the chip’s called the Apple Neural Engine internally, and could be used for “offloading facial recognition in the photos application, some parts of speech recognition, and the iPhones predictive keyboard to the chip.”

By moving AI processing to a dedicated chip, battery life in devices could also see a boost since the main CPU and GPU wouldn’t be crunching as much data and gobbling as much power.

The report says Apple plans to integrate the chip into its devices, but it’s unclear when that’ll happen, and if any iOS devices launching this year will have it.

Apple’s work on an AI chip shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s paying attention to the competition. Virtually every tech company is working on improving AI processing on mobile devices.

Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 835 chip, which is already in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8, has a special module dedicated to processing AI tasks.

Years ago, Apple started designing its own mobile processors to improve performance and reduce power consumption, and it’s really paid off.

Despite having fewer cores, the iPhone 7 still crushes the Galaxy S8 when it comes to sheer performance.

iPhones and iPads also come with an Apple-designed “M”-branded motion coprocessor to collect sensor data from the various included sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, etc.). It’s this M chip that helps with tracking health and fitness data.

Furthermore, in addition to the main Intel processors in the new MacBook Pros, there’s also a small Apple-made “T1” chip for powering the Touch Bar. Apple’s AirPods also have a custom W1 chip that helps with pairing them to iOS devices.

Clearly, Apple loves making custom chips for things. We’re all for it, especially if that means longer battery life.

If the future is AI everywhere (and it definitely looks like that’s where things are headed), it’s in Apple’s best interests to control the stack (like it always does) with its own AI chip.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/26/apple-artificial-intelligence-chip-iphone/