2016 has had its ups and downs, and it sure as heck has had its weird moments. With all the incredible tech innovations arriving this year, it was bound to be that there were some strange yet logical ideas that emerged. We’ve rounded up 5 of our favourite (and most bizarre) tech inventions of 2016:
Flyte floating lightbulb
Why would you need a floating lightbulb? Well, why wouldn’t you? The designer behind this crazy creation is Simon Morris, who is somewhere between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. The Flyte lightbulb is quite something to behold. Flyte relies on electromagnetism to levitate and spin, and on resonant inductive coupling — a technical term for wireless power transmission — to shine. A seamless blend of science and art, Morris says Flyte has sold so well since its official January launch that his team is planning to introduce a whole ecosystem of floating products, as they’re just “scratching the surface”. Spooky.
Hello Sense alarm clock
You think they would’ve nailed the whole alarm clock thing by now, but nope – there’s still room for improvement. Sleep is a rather obscure area to work in, but one which is as important as any other. This Hello Sense alarm clock is supposed to mark the new era of smart-alarms, but we mean really smart. This alarm clock (along with its pillow sensor) can gauge the temperature, humidity, light and even air quality in your bedroom to help you engineer a perfect sleep environment. It can also monitor your sleep cycles and wake you when you’re least likely to feel groggy — all thanks to simple voice commands. Sunday morning sleep-ins will never be the same.
Goodyear’s Eagle 360 tyres
Self-driving cars are all good and dandy, but they are going to have their limitations when in practice. Thankfully, tyre aficonados Goodyear are developing something that could change the course of automobiles forever. The company is developing a spherical concept tire, which allows cars to move in many new directions, including sideways into a parallel parking space and at specific angles and speeds to counteract slippery surfaces. The key is magnetic levitation; whereas traditional tires are fixed to cars’ axels, the Eagle 360s hover beneath them, free from “the limits of [traditional] steering.” Of course, these tires won’t hit streets anytime soon, but they’re already in testing phases. Talk about reinventing the wheel…
While Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana allow you to speak to your smartphones, we haven’t seen the tech implemented in many other devices as of yet. Amazon’s own personal assistant, Alexa, has been underutilised with their products, but in the company’s new Bluetooth speaker, Echo, it’s pivotal. The speaker, which will sit in the centre of your home, can be communicated with using dozens of third-party apps, so you can call an Uber, turn off lights (via Philips Hue bulbs, among others) or even order pizza (via Domino’s). The Echo and it’s built-in Alexa functionality is the enabler we’ve always wanted.
Zuta mobile printer
Printers aren’t very sexy. Nor are they particularly practical for travel. However, a new mobile robotic printer that is only a little bigger than a small coffee mug will enable people to print anywhere and on any size page of paper. Zuta Labs, based in Jerusalem, reasoned that printers nowadays are essentially a printhead running back and forth on a moving piece of paper. The company’s approach involves placing a printhead on a set of small wheels and letting it run across a sheet of paper, thus allowing printers to become smaller. It can connect wirelessly to smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs via Wi-Fi, and is supported by Android, iOS, OS X and Windows. A free app from the company lets you use the printer via a mobile device; a laptop or PC can also select the printer for use just like any other wirelessly connected printer. The company plans to ship its printers to customers in the beginning of 2017.