Every year, TIME magazine puts out its list of the year’s best inventions. Some of these help us solve problems. Others make life easier, or more fun. TIME for Kids features 10 of them here. Which one do you think is the best?
A Cooler ColorJARED PIKE—PURDUE UNIVERSITY
The paint on a white building reflects 80 to 90% of the sunlight that strikes it. The rest of the light warms the surrounding area, raising air-conditioning bills. But a new Whiter Paint is made of chemicals that better reflect UV rays. This paint reflects up to 98% of the sunlight, which could reduce AC use by 40%. “The heat is reflected into deep space,” says Xiulin Ruan, who led the Purdue University team that created the paint. “You keep our cities cooler.” The team says it also has a lightweight paint for airplanes, cars, and even spaceships. —By Tara Law
At the Hologram Zoo, you don’t just see an elephant: You see a herd that stampedes toward you and then runs over you. “It’s really about showing people things they have never seen before,” says Bruce Dell, the zoo’s CEO. The 16,000-square-foot complex is in Brisbane, Australia. Visitors encounter lifelike wonders such as polar bears and whales in action. It’s a way for the public to see wildlife that doesn’t involve keeping animals captive. —By Jeff Wilser
A Drive to Fly
There are plenty of flying cars being developed, but not many look like, well, a car. “We started calling everything a flying car,” says Jim Dukhovny. He’s the CEO of Alef Aeronautics. The company’s Model A is a two-seat all-electric vehicle with a flight range of 110 miles. And it looks as if it were made to be parked in a garage. In July, the Federal Aviation Administration gave Alef permission to take the vehicle on test flights. The company hopes to deliver the first Model A by 2026. —By Alejandro De La Garza
The Language of SongELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME
Now you can take music lessons on a smartphone. Introducing the Duolingo app’s music feature. It uses an on-screen piano to teach basics such as harmony, meter, pitch, and beat. You learn by interacting with more than 200 popular pieces of music, from nursery rhymes to symphonies. Just match sounds to notes and play along. You don’t need natural talent to learn music, Karen Chow says. She’s a learning scientist at Duolingo. “We’re trying to break those boundaries. You don’t have to feel intimidated.” —J.W.
Playing With BrailleELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME
Lego Braille Bricks teach tactile skills to children who are visually impaired. The bricks, which have been used in schools, will soon be available to consumers. The set uses the classic-size Lego brick, but the knobs are arranged into braille letters, numbers, and symbols. The pieces can be used with all Lego products. “We developed these for everyone,” says Rasmus Logstrup Jensen, a designer at Lego. “Even sighted children and family members can show their interest in learning braille.” —By John Mihaly
Easy WalkingMOONWALKERS BY SHIFT ROBOTICS; ELIZABETH RENSTROM FOR TIME
These might look like skates, but they’re actually battery-powered shoes with wheels. They let you walk normally—just faster and more easily. moonwalkers, made by Shift Robotics, use AI to sense when you’re speeding up or slowing down, and adjust themselves accordingly. The wheels lock when you’re taking the stairs. With Moonwalkers, you can walk at speeds up to seven m.p.h. That’s more than twice as fast as the average gait. You can go farther without tiring out. —By Pranav Dixit
For Starry NightsMAGIC ADVENTURES TELESCOPE BY LEAPFROG
LeapFrog’s Magic Adventures Telescope lets budding astronomers explore the wonders of the night sky. An attached zoom camera lets you take pictures to show to friends and family. With the telescope’s viewfinder, you can also see images and videos taken by NASA and the European Space Agency.
The set includes educational games, too. These take you around the solar system while you learn about space. —By Katie MacBride
Stopping FiresARIANA DREHSLER—THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX
AlertCalifornia is the public-safety program at the University of California San Diego. Working with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, it uses AI to predict wildfires before they start. The AI Wildfire Detector spots smoke and other early signs of fire, using more than a thousand cameras in forests across the state. It alerts local fire departments via text message. In two months, the system correctly identified 77 fires before any 911 calls came in. “The greatest success stories of this [system] are the fires you never hear about,” Falko Kuester says. He’s an investigator at AlertCalifornia. —P.D.
There are people all over the world without safe drinking water, often in conflict zones or after natural disasters. Lifestraw Max may be a solution. It strips water of bacteria, parasites, and viruses. The system attaches to an existing water supply and cleans 40 gallons of water in an hour. “We wanted something that could work both at a refugee-camp level but also where you have flooding and wildfires,” says LifeStraw’s chief brand officer, Tara Lundy. —By Chris Stokel-Walker
Air on MarsR. LANNOM—NASA/JPL-CALTECH
If astronauts ever land on Mars, they’ll need air to breathe and a way to get home. We’re now closer to both possibilities, thanks to NASA’s Moxie. It’s a small device attached to the Mars Perseverance rover. It can separate oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. That’ll help astronauts breathe. And oxygen combined with hydrogen fuels engines. That could supply “rocket propellant to future astronauts,” says NASA deputy administrator Pam Melroy. —By Jeff Wilser