If there were ever a Michael Jordan of the inventor’s world, it would be Sir James Dyson. The billionaire founder of Dyson Industries, best known as the father of the Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, has also over the years introduced a 10-second instant hand dryer and a bladeless fan. In many ways, he brings a sleek and innovative Steve Jobs-esque design sensibility to common appliances.
Not too long ago, Sir James started the annual Dyson awards, an international competition that “celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers.” Along with a smaller competition on the national level in Britain, aspiring inventors can also submit entries for a chance to win nearly $48,000. The winner will be announced on November 7, 2013.
Here are a few notable ideas that have been shortlisted as finalists for this year’s honors:
Titan Arm (USA)
This entry from the United States will appeal to fans of Iron Man. The Titan Arm is the end result of impressive efforts by students at the University of Pennsylvania to piece together an inter-working system of motors, cables, sensors and other inexpensive parts to produce an upper-body exoskeleton that enables the wearer to lift an extra 40 pounds beyond what natural strength can achieve. The team hopes the device can be used to prevent injuries to workers required to do heavy lifting as well as assist those undergoing physical therapy. Titan Arm has already claimed top prize in the Cornell Cup USA engineering competition, sponsored by Intel.
OLTU Fruit Ripening Unit (Spain)
Sure you have your banana hangers, but the art of ripening fruit will take a lot more ingenuity in order to be perfected. That’s where the OLTU comes in. The ripening storage unit siphons power from your refrigerator to help create the ideal atmospheric conditions for various fruits and vegetables to uniformly reach this peak state. The container features four sections, each with different settings, such as cold dry, cold wet, fresh wet and dry warm, tailored to specific varieties.
So you can’t stand waking up to the roar of your neighbor’s lawnmower but would still appreciate hearing the song of a chirping bird during the early mornings? The Sono is a simple device that attaches to windows and works as a lounge bouncer of sorts for sounds that pass through from outside. The ring design enables the system to detect the tone of various kinds of sounds, and using Wi-Fi, lets users set the SONO to block certain frequencies while allowing others.
Stack Printer (Switzerland)
With productivity devices these days, portable and mobile has become the way to go. Meanwhile, printers seem to be stuck at the office. Mugi Yamamoto doesn’t think this necessarily needs to be the case and has taken the minimalist approach as far as he it can go in developing the Stack printer. The industrial designer’s version of a slimmed-down inkjet removes the standard plastic paper tray and keeps the product to its bare essentials like the ink cartridge, the print head and frame for alignment. It works simply by placing it on top of a stack of papers and letting it run its course. Judging by the latest prototype, the Stack still wouldn’t fit into a briefcase. A backpack though? Now we’re talking.
The Xarius can aptly be described as wind power that fits in your pocket. And just as fitting, it’s designed to re-charge and power portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. The internal power generator relies on a cleverly designed three-winged mini wind turbine that efficiently captures energy in remote places off the grid, such as camping grounds; it is also perfect for getaways off the coast. The generator is even efficient enough to capture energy at low wind speeds.
Check out the complete list of finalists!