A kettle-less kettle and other Dyson Award shortlisted innovations

This year’s 20-strong short list includes two finalists from Canadian teams

The Spokefuge, one of the 20 shortlisted products for the James Dyson Award.

The Spokefuge, one of the 20 shortlisted products for the James Dyson Award.

From cardboard bike bags to a kettle-less kettle, this year’s Dyson Award shortlist—20 innovative products imagined by university-level students or recent graduates vying for a US$46,000 prize—is proof that true innovators find solutions to everyday problems. Here’s a look at some of the coolest and most innovative ideas to come out of this year’s 20-product short list—whittled down from more than 600 from 18 countries—which includes two teams from Canada, both from the University of Waterloo.

Miito. (Handout/Dyson)

Miito: Nils Chudy, The Netherlands

The minimum fill line for kettles is usually 500 ml—and a typical volume of a mug is around half that. That means there’s a ton of wasted energy, says Chudy, who designed this energy-efficient and stylish rod-and-base product that allows consumers to boil water in any non-metal vessel they already own. As if it wasn’t sleek enough, it doesn’t even have an on-off button: the Miito is able to activate the electric current that heats the rod on its own.

Bump Mark 1Bump Mark: Solveiga Pakstaite, Brunel University

Anyone who has lived in university knows that expiry dates, printed firmly atop milk cartons and on our food packaging, isn’t an ideal way of really knowing whether one’s food has gone bad. Pakstaite set out to make sure we weren’t disposing of food improperly and found that gelatine has the same expiration qualities as many foods. When the gel degrades into a liquid—producing bubbles—you’ll be able to tell on a quick touch whether that food is still good to go.

Suncayr 2Suncayr: Djouppi, Canada

The particularly pale should take particular note at this submission from a consortium of five current University of Waterloo students, which is a marker that will inform people out enjoying a summer tan exactly when their sunscreen’s effectiveness has worn out and needs to be re-applied. Added bonus: the marker line you draw on yourself will leave no tan line, and the ability to draw whatever you want on yourself with easy washability means kids will relish more sunblock, instead of slipping and squeezing away.

EyeCheckEyecheck: Ashutosh Syal and Daxal Desai, Canada

Canada’s second shortlisted candidate specifically targets Third World countries where eye health is a major issue, but long lines and delays in the lens-prescription process—when many cannot afford to skip a day of work—make it a pressing need that goes overlooked. Eyecheck is a two-part system that includes a smartphone app that allows doctors to easily diagnose urgency from those in a queue using the phone’s camera, while a separate standalone camera takes a set of images of patients’ eyes and provides a prescription in half the time of a traditional exam.

QOLO 3Qolo: QOLTEM_UT, Japan

No, this isn’t another Drake-popularized acronym the kids are saying these days: Qolo is an impressive wheel-and-lift device that allows people with lower-body disabilities to regain the ability to move in ways they no longer can. Certainly, there are wheelchairs, but QOLO allows people to stand up from a chair, move to another place and then sit down again; it will allow people to move about while cooking, or find a book from a shelf. These sound like minor feats, but this could be a game-changer.

Spokefuge 19Spokefuge: Jack Trew, the United Kingdom

For blood samples to remain fresh, it needs to be constantly spun so that it does not separate. Here, that requires a high-tech centrifuge; that’s tougher to do in Africa, where blood anemia is a problem. Rather than expecting First World donations of electric centrifuges, however, Trew developed a low-tech device born from Africa’s culture, where bikes are the main form of transportation, to allow for a rudimentary mimicking of the centrifuge over the course of transport: When someone is riding a bike, they can also keep blood unseparated for around 10 minutes. Someone tell Toronto’s Ford family that there is in fact huge value in the bicycle.

Pachtasche 1Packtasche: Matthias Lechner, Austria

Speaking of low-tech, high-elegance solutions that involve bicycles, the Packtasche solves one of the primary downsides of biking—the inability to carry large goods with you—in one recyclable cardboard-based bike bag. It can expand to fit even the spoils of those particularly hunger-inducing grocery trips, and it’s recyclable, to boot. It may seem like something straight out of Portlandia, but it’s impossible to deny its practicality.

flipod05Flipod: Chow Wai Tung Eason, Singapore

For those involved in the care of seniors, bedsores are a primary concern, and it’s important to ensure that the elderly are moved enough that the sores do not develop. There is, so far, no elegant solution—either a manual-labour-intensive process or a mechanical process that is jerky and could create injury. The Flipod offers its own suggestion—an adjustably inflated pad that can be pumped up or down according to dynamic muscle movement, which is easy on both caretaker and the cared.

Luke Stairwalker. (Handout/Dyson)

Luke Stairwalker: Alexander Abele, Germany

Many of these products feel like they’ve been ripped from a sci-fi world like Star Wars, but this product makes the connection abundantly clear. Not that it fits straightforwardly into a universe far, far away full of Jedis and Sith: The Luke Stairwalker is an effective and affordable aid for the elderly who struggle with stairs but may be leery of the high costs of mechanical systems. It attaches to handrails but, most crucially, also provides back support so that if the user slips backwards, the Stairwalker prevents a much more serious fall. Their pitch doesn’t say, though, whether the device would have saved Darth Maul in the first of the Star Wars prequel films.

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A kettle-less kettle and other Dyson Award shortlisted innovations

  1. My partially figured out tentative new strategy for introducing a future WMD/tyranny sensor network involves measuring the thoughts of administrators of the system. I’m still learning about brain sensors and the current limits of reading thoughts. Biotechnology and thought modificiation are fraught with perils. *They* would like to see the system used for biotech researchers to mitigate pandemic threats. I’m about a month away from setting up a Table to make such an assertion; certainly ealry on you wouldn’t want world leaders o get brain cancer. And command and control issues might make it unwise for USA or Russia leaders to leave their thoughts open for hacking. The thought recording databases might resemble Thomson’s. I’m not interested in thought modification here.

    • …The previous msg was while listening to songs including Low Man’s Lyric. They put a new msg to faint voilin or sample notes. All one tone with note lengths equalling word lengths…maybe the same sound as is the instrument in the Judith remix. Said it was very important that even though thoughts will be able to be recorded, that this is a tyranny risk. In agreement with me that volunteers and paid subjects should maybe be given immunity for any crimes revealed.
      I previously ignored these brain sciences because of unjust USA neocon judge rulings about lie detectors.
      I suppose only some occupations should be subject to such security checks. Funding for such technologies will be needed and perhaps a faster FDA process. I’m hoping Apple or Google will take the ball once brain wave data starts emerge. AT least mental illnesses should be screened for.

      • …they also mentioned a genius won’t be from China. At 1st I thought this was a reference to 1949 events or perhaps even those 2300 years ago or longer. But after a few days thought it suggests there is already someone or some candidates to replace me if/when I die.
        Ideologues such as Christian or Muslim or capitalist or communist extremists should be easy to screen for using brain imaging. I wouldn’t want to invest in a company whose CEO is cheerleading for Revelations.
        I’m envisioning robotic headlice for starters, and perhaps NIRS headbands, to get a large dataset of what constitutes sane and reflective and wise thought patterns and behaviours. And then nanotech sensors through the blood-brain barrier for WMD sensor network administrators at least. There is a market now for mental illness sensors but the Clinical Trials take along time. Their is no present market for sanity brain wave prosthetics and Dyson Award-like vehicles may be useful to cross the valley of death between Public Research Grants and angel/venture funding.
        I’m not sure just how useful such mature technology will be; *they* suggest it may be the major game changer to deal with future WMDs, assuming thoughts are readable. For now I’d bet Traders and CEOs would want any “reflective-thought-and-absence-of-moodiness” sensors I can invent. Assuming my small biz plans meet intergalactic standards this spin around…

        • It is been suggested to me the highend neuroimaging/reading product may be more important than generating a nearer term brain wave science…the EU is presently modifying its medical devices laws. There is no present difference between “investigation, replacement, or modification of the anatomy”. Presumably nanodiamond brain imaging machines can be dangerous, but it should still be easier to introduce and research devices that only image. There are fewer application side risks and it will lead to better gvmt and smarter/more-humane rich people.

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