A decade of progress
When we think about major inventions, most of us jump right to things like the telephone or electricity. And sure, those completely changed the world, but new products and services are being launched every year that also have major impacts. The past decade has seen a significant-tech boom and an increase in products featuring smart technology. Here are some of the most important and influential inventions since 2010.
In 2013, Jamie Siminoff went on the TV show Shark Tank with his video doorbell, the DoorBot, which records activity outside the front door. Though the panel of judges – excuse us, sharks – didn’t make him an offer that worked for him, he launched it on his own. He changed the name to Ring, sold it to Amazon in 2018 for more than $1 billion, and the rest is innovation history.
Sure, we had doorbells and security cameras before this, but this invention combined the two in a way that was affordable to average homeowners. “With just about everyone receiving packages, doorstep thieves have become a major problem,” Mike Falahee, owner and CEO Marygrove Awning Co. tells Reader’s Digest. “The video doorbell is a widely-used security measure to deter and capture thieves.”
Given the ubiquity of Apple iPads – especially where kids in restaurants are concerned – it’s hard to believe that they’ve only been around since 2010. This tablet computer is a hybrid of a smartphone and laptop, providing a larger touchscreen interface that is used to control the device.
“It’s a tech innovation that without a doubt changed our lives during this decade,” Mike Satter, interim president at OceanTech and president at WipeOS tells Reader’s Digest. “The iPad completely changed our lives with a cross between having a mobile device that could be used for personal downtime to a hard-working machine that essentially replaced the business workhorse laptop computer. If you look around today you will notice children, coworkers, friends, family and/or a stranger next to you on a plane that depends on their iPad to help them through the day.”
Facial recognition technology
Conceived by Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf and Charles Bisson in the early 1960s, facial recognition technology has exploded over the last decade, Technical Writer at ProPrivacy Damien Mason tells Reader’s Digest. One of the most notable examples of facial recognition software is Amazon’s Rekognition software, which was introduced in 2016.
“On [the] one hand, facial recognition adds another layer of biometric security, popularised by Apple’s iPhone X as a method of user verification. On the other, however, it creates a state of mass surveillance that is ripe with exploits and abuse,” Mason explains. “Sure, it can help to identify and catch wanted criminals, but it remains a flawed technology with far too many false positives to be a viable method of policing.”
The technology of 3D printing – which physical chemist and writer David E. H. Jones imagined back in 1974 – has become one of the most visible innovations of the past decade. As exciting as many of the possibilities of 3D printing can be, perhaps the most significant developments have been in the area of bioprinting.
This first happened in 2012, when otolaryngologist Glenn Green led a team that bioengineered one of the first synthetic tracheas to stabilise the breathing of a struggling baby. Another major step forward occurred in 2017, when Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions successfully built and transplanted a thyroid into a rat.
“While transplants from one person into another can result in complications, such as the body rejecting the foreign organ, chances of this are drastically reduced using this method as bioprinting uses the stem cells of the host to create the organ,” Mason explains.
“Whether this eventually extends to entire limbs or not, it’s clear that this is revolutionary for the medical world.”
Although Netflix has been around since 1997, when Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings established it as a DVD sales and rental service, it became a household name in 2010 when it transitioned to in-home video streaming. Though it initially had a pretty limited streaming library, the service continued to add titles over time, eventually branching out into creating original content. More than that, Netflix popularised the concept of “binge-watching” by releasing an entire season of one of their original shows – like Orange is the New Black – in one day. “It would be fair to credit Netflix for its part in increasing the quality of television shows, with growing budgets and helping to draw movie talent into the previously lower medium,” Mason says.
The idea of having a car that can drive itself isn’t new. In fact, German engineer Ernst Dickmanns first created an autonomous van in 1986. But prior to the last few years, these vehicles were more dream than reality. By 2013, several major automobile manufacturers –including General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla and BMW – started developing their own versions of the self-driving car.
“Sadly, autonomous vehicles aren’t quite on our doorstep, with many kinks to iron out such as collision avoidance,” Mason explains. The emerging technology also raises all sorts of ethical concerns, like how a car would decide how to react under a variety of situations with multiple parties – for example, whether to protect the passengers in the car, or other drivers or pedestrians in an accident.
Though we’re not to the point of having a fully autonomous car, major strides have been made in the development of specific amenities designed to assist the driver. One example is the 2014 Mercedes S-Class, which has semi-autonomous features like self-steering, the ability to stay within lanes and accident avoidance.
Technically, Uber was founded in 2009 as UberCab by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, but the service really took off over the past decade. What started off as an app for people in San Francisco who wanted to order a car ride via their smartphone has turned into a several-billion-dollar worldwide company and inspired competitors like Lyft and Juno.
Though the concept is similar to taxis – which have been around longer than cars themselves – there are a few distinct differences. First, no more trying to verbally tell the driver where you’re doing: with the app, you simply plug in where you’re going, and GPS will do the rest. Also, Ubers have sprung up in many suburban and rural areas where taxis traditionally weren’t available, giving people more transportation options in areas lacking public transit.
Instagram was released in late 2010 and has become one of the biggest social media platforms with more than 1 billion users. The photo-sharing app has revolutionised marketing, advertising, public relations, brand building and journalism, according to Andrew Selepak, PhD, a media professor at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media.
“It has given rise to the meme culture and created social media influencers. An app that once was only for images with different filters now has video, ephemeral content and long-form video with IGTV and allowed its parent company Facebook to compete with, and replace, other platforms like Vine, Periscope, Snapchat and YouTube,” Selepak tells Reader’s Digest. “We now all look for Instagrammable moments on vacation, when we go out to eat, get engaged, get married, or to showcase the highlights of our life.”
Fried food is delicious, but unfortunately, it’s not very healthy. That’s what makes the invention of the air fryer such a food game-changer. The first air fryer as we know it hit the market in 2010 when Philips introduced what it coined “Rapid Air Technology.” The idea behind the device is to achieve the same crispiness as frying food in oil, but using extremely fast-moving air instead. The air fryer really started appearing on kitchen counters across the country when Oprah named it one of her “Favourite Things” in 2016. Though the food cooked in an air fryer doesn’t taste exactly like it would from a fast food shop, it is a decent option for those looking to eat healthier.
With so many people being self-employed and taking on multiple side hustles, we needed a better way to pay for goods and services. Enter Square – a small device you can plug into a smartphone or tablet to turn it into a credit card reader. Launched in 2010 by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square gives vendors of all sizes the ability to accept credit card payments – even without an actual cash register. This technology made it much more accessible to start your own business and actually earn money from it.
Crowdfunding itself isn’t new – people have long turned to their communities for financial assistance when they’ve needed it. But before Kickstarter, crowdfunding was a lot more difficult. Though technically launched in 2009, by Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, Kickstarter really started taking off in the 2010s and has since funded 172,890 projects through $4.6 billion. Now, there was a much easier way of fundraising – whether it was for a musician looking to put out a new album, emergency funds for disaster relief, or a family who needed financial assistance to pay for medical care. There have been other crowdfunding sites since, but Kickstarter well, kickstarted it all.
Though different forms of voice recognition software and devices have been around since the 1970s, it wasn’t until the 2010s that the technology truly entered our homes. Well, first it came to our phones, when Apple introduced Siri, an electronic assistant, as a regular feature on iPhones in 2010. At that point, people got used to pressing a button on their phone and asking a faceless woman all sorts of questions. Though Siri felt (and was) futuristic, the trend really took off with the invention of smart speakers, which had the ability to answer the same kinds of questions as Siri but also control certain elements of your home, like lighting and heating. The most common smart speaker – Amazon’s Alexa – launched in 2014, and was soon followed by Google Assistant. Today, 66.4 million people — or 26.2 percent of the U.S. adult population—have a smart speaker in their home. Of course, with this technology came a new set of ethical issues regarding companies being able to listen in to your home and what happens to all the data this device collects. Find out more items that could be spying on you in your home.
Getting an HIV test is something we know we should do, but it’s not always that easy. With continuing stigma of the virus, many people find it intimidating to get tested at their regular doctor’s office. But ever since 2012, it has been possible to get tested in the comfort of your own home. That year, OraQuick launched the first FDA-approved at-home HIV test in the US, completely revolutioniSing the diagnostic space. Aside from convenience and privacy, another draw of this particular test is that it’s a simple mouth swab – no blood is drawn at all. Plus, the results are available in 20 minutes. Now with more people worldwide being able to access testing and become aware of their status, this technology could have some major public health implications when it comes to the spread of HIV.
If you’ve even been prescribed multiple medications – or cared for someone who has – you know how challenging it can be to get the pills in order. Sure, there are the drugstore variety daily pillboxes, which allow you to plan out a week’s worth of medication, but even those can get confusing and are time-consuming. That’s why pharmacist T.J. Parker invented Pillpack in 2014: an online pharmacy that delivers perfectly portioned packs of pills every two weeks, broken down by different times of the day. Once you receive your two-week supply in the mail, you’re all set and just have to remember to take your medication – the rest is done for you.
Roughly half the population menstruates, but there really hadn’t been innovation in this area in decades. Yes, pads became self-adhesive (bye-bye belts!) and menstrual cups are becoming more commonplace, but other than that, technology was at a standstill. That is, until 2015, when Miki and Radha Agrawal and Antonia Dunbar invented Thinx: underwear designed to be worn during your period. For some people, this means being able to forgo pads or tampons completely, while for others, it provides a comfortable back-up for leaks. Though other companies have started to manufacture period underwear since, Thinx was the first out of the gate.
Though we have become accustomed to sitting on a toilet when doing our business, many places around the world squat over a latrine on the ground. And when Bobby Edwards’ mother became chronically constipated, her doctor suggested that she try using a footstool to raise her knees while she sat on the toilet. She tried it and it worked wonders, and in 2011, the Squatty Potty was born. This seemingly simple plastic stool that is stored at the base of a toilet has made Edwards and her family multimillionaires. Though sales were initially slow – $17,000 in 2011 – they hit $19 million in 2016 and continued to rise from there. Not only has the Squatty Potty changed the way many people use the toilet, it has also helped spark a wider conversation about digestive health and bathroom habits.
Beds in boxes
Getting a new mattress used to mean going to a furniture store and trying out a bunch before selecting one and having it delivered to your home. Then in 2015, a company called Casper launched, which sold mattresses directly to the consumer. The mattresses arrive vacuum-packed in a cardboard box, and users get 100 days to try them out and get a refund if they’re not satisfied. Plenty of other companies now do the same thing, streamlining the whole mattress shopping process and cutting out the middleman in the process.
Though there are plenty of high-tech products for parents developed over the past decade, the Snoo Smart Sleeper has been one of the most influential since it entered the market in 2016. Designed to mimic the sounds and motions of a womb, this responsive bassinet helps to reduce crying and naturally sleep-trains a baby. It was invented by Harvey Karp, MD, a paediatrician and Co-Founder of Happiest Baby, in collaboration with industrial designer Yves Béhar and Deb Roy, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab. Not only is it the world’s smart bassinet, but it’s also the first bed to prevent infants from accidentally rolling over. And better sleep for a baby means more sleep for parents.
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