December 2, 2016 3:31 pm

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is nearly over. This year has been a big one for innovations in consumer products. Inventions that make our world better, smarter, more convenient, and more entertaining dominated the invention space for 2016. Take a look at our list of favorite new products and inventions in no particular order.

Morpher – Folding Bike Helmet

Many bicyclists are aware of the dangers of riding without a helmet, but it’s just too cumbersome to carry around a dome-shaped helmet everywhere. Jeff Woolf, an engineer and cyclist, solved this problem by creating Morpher, a helmet composed of interweaved plastics that is completely flexible and folds nearly flat, but still meets safety requirements. Woolf hopes that because his helmet will be easier to transport and store that more people will protect their heads while cycling. The creator raised the funds for his invention on Indiegogo and recently shipped his first units.

Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 – Self-Tying Shoes

Of the inventions featured in Back to the Future, the three most frequently mentioned are the flying DeLorean, Hoverboard, and the self-tying tennis shoes. Nike has finally developed the HyperAdapt shoes that automatically tighten/loosen when the wearer presses a button near the tongue. At first glance, this innovation might seem frivolous, but there are more uses to the high-tech shoe. They may give athletes an edge during competition and may also prove useful to disabled users who will be able to tie their shoes more easily despite impaired motor function.

Sony PlayStation VR – Affordable Virtual Reality

Many companies have been experimenting with virtual reality over the past couple of years, but until now, it has not been readily available for the average consumer. When purchasing VR, the user not only has to buy a headset, but also a computer with the power to support it. Sony has created a VR system that works directly with the PlayStation 4, which more than 40 million people worldwide already own in their homes. This new product makes virtual reality more accessible for gamers everywhere.

Eatwell Assistive Tablewear – Tablewear for People with Special Needs

Inventor Sha Yao was disheartened when helping her grandmother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, especially during mealtimes. Her grandmother would attempt to feed herself but found it difficult. So, Sha Yao invented Eatwell Assistive Tablewear, a dining set that helps with people affected by diseases that impair brain and body function. Design features include bright colors to help distinguish food from plates, wide bases on cups to prevent spills, and specially contoured spoons and bowls perfect for scooping.

Dyson Supersonic – Dyson Engineering for Your Hair

Innovation in hair dryers has not changed that much since the 1970s – that is, until now. James Dyson, famous for improvements in vacuums and fans, has redesigned the hair dryer to create something faster, lighter, and quieter. The Dyson Supersonic features a tiny, jet-engine-like motor that revolves 110,000 per minute, making it inaudible to the human ear. Although its design and price are very different than other dryers on the market, this is hair drying as Dyson thinks it should be.

IKO – Lego-Capable Prosthesis for Children

Generally, prosthetic limbs are designed to give those who have lost a limb and their mobility and independence. For many adults, this is good enough, but for children, the stigma associated with a prosthesis and the difficulty playing can be tough on kids. Carlos Arturo Torres, in collaboration with Lego, created Iko, a prosthetic arm that has replaceable toy-like attachments that are compatible with Lego products. Attachments include a typical hand, a dump truck-like bucket, a space ship, and a futuristic “laser.” Torres hopes that Iko will destigmatize disability and allow kids to learn and create like kids.

Amazon Echo – Tech that Talks Back and Understands

The ability to talk to your technology has been around for a while – consider Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. However, one major complaint is that these personal assistants can’t understand normal human speech patterns and thus aren’t as helpful as a user would hope. Amazon’s Alexa, which is embedded in Bluetooth speaker Echo, is more powerful because it can understands how people normally speak. It is also integrated with many third-party apps that allow you to call a ride (Uber), order a pizza (Domino’s), and dim the lights/control the thermostat (Nest).

BONUS: Check out this InventHelp product!

The Back/Flash Flashlight is an innovative flashlight invented by an InventHelp client that features three modes: steady front beam, flashing rear light, and combination. The magnetic head attaches to the side of a vehicle in case of emergency to alert drivers and add visibility. This product would be a great addition to any car emergency kit and would make a great Christmas present for friends and family.

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