Skip to main content

Best Inventions of 2019


Every year, TIME magazine names the year’s best inventions. This year, the list includes robotic hands, recyclable footwear—what will they think of next? Inventors are always at work, dreaming up new technologies. Some inventions help us solve problems. Others make life easier, or more fun. Here, TFK presents 10 of our favorite inventions. Next week, look for our issue on amazing young inventors.

Got Wheels?


Want to upgrade your bike from pedal-powered to electric? You can, with this e-bike wheel from GEOORBITAL. Riders control their speed using a throttle throttle PW_THROTTLE ÓSCAR LOPERA MARTOS/EYEEM—GETTY IMAGES a device that controls the flow of fuel to an engine (noun) A mechanic repaired the car's throttle. connected to the handlebars. A three-hour battery charge allows for a ride of 20 miles. Michael Burtov is the company’s founder and CEO. He says the wheel’s design makes bicycles more efficient. “Regular wheels have a lot of empty, wasted space in them,” Burtov says. “Now they don’t.” —Alex Fitzpatrick

Stopping Sickness


Christine Schindler is an engineer. She wanted to help stop the spread of foodborne foodborne MIKE KEMP—GETTY IMAGES contained in food (foodborne) Washing your hands before cooking can help prevent foodborne illnesses. illnesses, so she created PATHSPOT. It uses light to scan a person’s hands for harmful germs, such as E. coli. Restaurant employees hold their hands under the scanner. The scanner evaluates whether they must be rewashed. Some popular restaurants have already started using the product. These include Chopt and Pokéworks locations. —Jamie Ducharme

Play By Sight


Want to learn how to play piano? The company Roli wants to help, with Lumi. The small LUMI keyboard lights up. This allows users to see which keys to press. Users can learn their favorite songs. Then they can work their way up to full music lessons. “We hope that Lumi closes the gap between people’s love of music and their fear about playing it,” says Roli’s Will MacNamara. The company plans to roll out Lumi to schools across the United States. It will be available to the wider public soon. —Jasmine Aguilera

Future Farm


Millions of people around the world suffer from food food insecurity DON FARRALL—GETTY IMAGES unreliable access to food (noun) The food bank helps people dealing with food insecurity. insecurity. AEROFARMS says its indoor farming technology can help. No dirt is needed. Instead, crops grow in reusable cloth. The cloth is made from recycled water bottles. The plants are watered with mist. This requires 95% less water than field farming. AeroFarms has produced enough food to sell to grocery chains and restaurants. “We’re the only commercial grower in the world doing what we’re doing,” says cofounder Marc Oshima. —Justin Worland

A Lifelike Hand


The BRAINROBOTICS prosthetic prosthetic Prosthetic FILIPPO ROMEO/EYEEM—GETTY IMAGES having to do with an artificial body part (noun) Because he had a prosthetic leg, he was still able to compete. hand is a first in its field. It is an artificial-intelligence (AI) device. It is programmed to learn from its user. The hand becomes more lifelike with each use. Its sensors process muscle signals from the user’s arm. This allows for better control. One person was able to play piano with it. Max Newlon of BrainCo says, “We hope our invention gives amputees the ability to control prosthetics just like they are using their real hands.” —Josiah Bates

An AI-Powered Teacher


This robot may look like a cute alien. But don’t let it fool you. It’s actually an AI-powered tool. It helps kids learn language and STEM skills. ROYBI ROBOT responds to your learning style. It can recognize emotions. It then delivers the content you enjoy most. With the robot, you can hear a story, sing a song, or learn a lesson. Kayla Prochnow works at Roybi. She says the robot gives kids personalized education and hopes it will build a strong foundation for success. —Madeleine Carlisle

Talking Eyes


For people who are blind or have another visual impairment, the ORCAM MYEYE 2 could be a game changer. It might also be useful to people with reading difficulties, such as dyslexia dyslexia PW dyslexia MOMO PRODUCTIONS—GETTY IMAGES a condition that can make it difficult for people to read, write, and spell (noun) My dad and I both have dyslexia, which makes it difficult for us to read. . Described as “talking glasses,” this AI device attaches to any eyeglass frame. It can identify faces. It can also read text aloud. Fitting all this power into such a small device is like “putting an elephant in a small closet,” says Amnon Shashua. He invented the technology. —Sanya Mansoor



Research shows that playing football increases risk of brain injury. Still, about a million kids under the age of 13 play tackle football. That’s according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. The VICIS ZERO1 YOUTH football helmet can help keep kids safe. It has thick support on the front and sides. That’s where kids are likely to take the hardest hits on the field. Players on 1,500 youth teams have now worn the helmet. —Sean Gregory

Fresh Kicks


At first, these sneakers look no different from any other running shoes. The innovation comes when you’re done with them. You don’t need to throw them away. You can return them to Adidas. Then 100% of each FUTURECRAFT.LOOP shoe can be reused to make new ones. James Carnes works for Adidas. He says the shoes are meant to be a first step to “clean up some of the environmental impact that we create” each year. —Madeleine Carlisle



“We basically want to turn every vehicle into a moving theme park,” says Nils Wollny. He’s a cofounder of a virtual-reality (VR) company called HOLORIDE. The company has developed a VR app. It reads vehicle data, such as acceleration acceleration PW_Acceleration METAMORWORKS—GETTY IMAGES the act of moving faster (noun) The car's sudden acceleration made me feel queasy. and turning. That info becomes part of the VR experience. If you’re flying a virtual spaceship and the car turns left, the spaceship turns left too. This technology lets passengers save the galaxy from the backseat. —Alejandro de la Garza