Over here at SmartPlanet, we throw around the word "innovation" a lot. That's because on any given day, you're likely to find a chock full of news and analysis of cutting-edge technologies such as LED lighting, solar energy and robotics. But what about some of the more off-beat ideas that, while not having the same degree of widespread application, still makes somebody's life smarter, more efficient or simply enjoyable?
Surely an argument can be made for a commercial Jetpack having as much of an impact for someone than the latest electric car. For instance, there's something to the fact that the fundraising website Kickstarter has become a popular starting point for indie inventors to bring their ideas to market through "crowdfunding." Evidently, even some of the wackiest inventions have a niche, so long as a small, but fervent following exists.
Here are some of the weirdest inventions this year that made headlines this year:
The flyboard jetpack. A cross between a hoverboad and a jetpack, the latest invention from jetski racing champion Franky Zapata lets users perform some pretty wild aerial tricks, such as launching in and out of the water like a dolphin, completing 360 degree spin moves and even pulling off backward somersaults. Best of all, it only costs $6,600, a much more affordable option than the six figure Jetlev.
The Gurinal. UiWe, a Copenhagen-based firm, recently unveiled the Pollee, a groundbreaking new design that enables women to relieve themselves just like a man. Whether it would translate into shorter lines for the ladies room has yet to be determined.
Urinal video games. Another invention that's demonstrating that the restroom is sorely due for an upgrade is Captive Media's gaming system, which can played at the urinal. Why? Answer: Why not?
World's Smallest Motor home (kind of). Want to live out of your car, but don't want or can afford to buy an RV? A swiss company has created SwissBoombox, a portable modular living system consisting of stack-able modules that contain within it everything you would need for day-to-day survival such as a sink, shower stall, dining table, chairs, refrigerator, bed and yes, a toilet.
World's most expensive RV. For those of you who can more than afford an RV, there's now an ultra, ultra-luxurious option (if there ever was one). The Marchi Mobile's eleMMent RV comes with a slide out deck that enables the interior to expand to a full 430 square feet. With that much living space owners can chose from a menu of configurations that include a bar lounge, fireplace and rooftop patio.
A camping trailer that doubles as a boat. The Sealander amphibious trailer looks like your typical towable camping contraption, except the “amphibious” part means you can back it right onto a lake — at which point it becomes a motorized boat. But don't try to go for ride in the ocean. The 5 hp electric motor is merely enough to cruise less challenging bodies of water, such as lakes.
Sofa that reads your mind and body. The Cay Sofa is divided into several segments and pieced together using strategically-placed hinges, an ingenious approach that enables it to adjusts its contours to comfortably suit whichever way you decide to kick up your feet.
Self-lacing shoes. Nike created a lot of hoopla over the release of the iconic Marty McFly shoes from the classic film "Back to the Future." But die-hard fans were disapointed to learn that the replica shoes replicated everything except the self-lacing part. But it appears that Nike have designs for putting out a full-featured version in 2015. The technology is already being developed by DIY inventor Blake Bevin.
A flying car that works like the Chevy Volt. There a few flying car designs in the works, but aircraft innovator Burt Rutan's BiPod features a version that works similarly to electric cars like the Chevy Volt wherein gasoline engines drive generators that supply power to an array of electric motors. And since it’s the motors that generate the propulsion, it can go all-electric.
The di-wheel re-charged. College students gave the historically odd di-wheel concept a modern revisionist redesign. The electric-battery powered vehicle features a top speed of 40 kilometers an hour, an incline of 12 degrees and is controlled using a joystick. Best of all, they've devised a stabialization system that eliminates that nauseating gerbeling effect.