Popular Mechanics magazine on Thursday will unveil its fifth-annual Breakthrough Award winners, an august collection of designers and products that could do much more than their share to change the world for the better.
From famous inventors like Dean Kamen to a flying car for the Third World to bacteria-powered batteries--and much in-between--the awards are meant to highlight technologies that will shape the way people around the world live and how they interact with everyday products.
Each year, the magazine's editors scour the country for a worthy group of winners, and this year, in the end, Popular Mechanics settled on one leadership award winner, one next-generation honoree, eight Breakthrough innovators and 10 Breakthrough products.
"In all cases, there's a really practical application that we see coming about," said Jerry Beilinson, the magazine's deputy editor, "so these aren't theoretical scientific applications. (They're going to) change the world and have a really positive aspect on people's lives."
Beilinson said that after five years of identifying technological breakthrough products and innovators, certain themes have emerged in the editors' preferences. Among the most important, he said, is alternative energy and products and designers that push that category forward.
"If I look back (at the last few years of doing the awards), we looked at aviation and we looked at medicine," he said. "But over the last few years, I think the things that have been clear themes that we've been looking at that have emerged (are) alternative energy and appropriate technologies for the developing world."
And while the themes can be forward-looking, the individual awards celebrate a "moment in time," he said.
"We're sort of picking the moment at which it's become real, and passed the threshold and seems like its worthy of an award," Beilinson said. "But most of these kinds of things do take some time to develop."
For this year's Breakthrough Leadership award, Popular Mechanics honored Dean Kamen, an inventor with more than 440 patents who may be best known for creating the incredible but commercially disappointing Segway personal transporter. … Read more