The best design and technology has the ability not only to improve our lives, but make a mark on society. As 2017 winds down, My Modern Met looks back at the most innovative technology and design we've covered this year. Environmentally conscious design continues to be a trend, as large companies and individual designers strive to improve the planet via breakthroughs in the products we use every day. In fact, half of our top 10 list—from solar tiles to drones that mimic bee pollination—were created to help combat the effects of pollution or global warming.
Art and creativity are also at the forefront, with advances in video editing software and paint pigments expanding possibilities in a number of creative fields. And our list rounds out with three items that keep you connected—or help you tune out noise—regardless of language or disability. Keep reading to discover the design and technology that captured our imagination in 2017, making us more excited than ever for what the coming years hold.
Our top 10 design and technology innovations are all products that made waves throughout 2017.
Google Pixel Buds
During their Pixel 2 event in San Francisco, Google demoed their new wireless headphones, Pixel Buds. During the onstage demonstration, Google blew the crowd away, displaying the Pixel Buds' ability to act as an in-ear translator with the help of Google Assistant on the Pixel 2 phone. Suddenly, with the help of technology, the world got much more connected.
Tesla Solar Roof Tiles
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known for his showmanship, and the unveiling of the company's solar-powered shingles was no exception. At the end of 2016, Tesla held an event at the Universal Studios set of Desperate Housewives to show off the four distinct styles of solar shingles and in 2017 they made good on their promises. Pricing was revealed, and is quite competitive, and the first solar roofs have been delivered and installed. Musk promises that production will ramp up in 2018, making the coming year an exciting one for this design innovation.
The 2017 Adobe MAX unveiled many new innovations by the software firm, but nothing got us quite as excited at Adobe Cloak. Filmmakers were left speechless by demonstrations of this new feature, which allows video editors to erase unwanted elements from video footage seamlessly. While there has been no announcement of where and when this feature will go live, we're betting on sooner rather than later.
Stuart Semple Black 2.0
There's nothing quite like revenge as good motivation to get creative. After Anish Kapoor bought exclusive rights to use Vantablack, known as the blackest substance in existence, artist Stuart Semple got busy working on an alternative. The result is Stuart Semple Black 2.0—”the most pigmented, flattest, mattest, black acrylic paint in the world.” And via Semple's website Culture Hustle, it's available to all (as long as you aren't Anish Kapoor, that is).
Dot Braille Smartwatch
After years in development, the world's first braille smartwatch was released on a limited testing basis. Dot, developed in South Korea, is the first smartwatch to have raised characters allowing people who are blind to not only tell the time, but read messages and notifications. Dot was recently part of the Good Design Best 100 at the Good Design Awards in Tokyo, Japan.
Ooho! Edible Water Bubble
Ooho! is looking to tackle the world's plastic problem by developing an alternative to plastic bottles. Made from seaweed extract, Ooho! is an edible bubble you can fill with water, juice, or any liquid. And if not ingested, it takes just 4 to 6 weeks to decompose. Already tested at events in the United States and UK, Skipping Rocks Lab—the company that innovated Ooho!—recently won the New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize in the Circular Design Challenge for continued developments with Ooho!
Knops Adjustable Earplugs
Knops are Dutch designed adjustable earplugs that allow you to tune out outside noise and create a quiet environment wherever you may be or protect your hearing, while delivering quality sound. After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, Knops are now on the market for regular consumers. Combining stylish design with analog technology, the innovative earplugs have four settings for every possible need—clear sounds, city noise, live music, and isolation.
Plan Bee Drone by Anna Haldewang
As different species of bees become endangered, it's more important than ever to think of innovative solutions for pollination. Industrial design student Anna Haldewang's Plan Bee is a lightweight plastic drone that pollinates plants just like a bee. Proving that being a student isn't a barrier to incredible design ideas, Haldewang has already applied for a patent and hopes to have a product on the market within two years.
Exhale Living Chandelier by Julian Melchiorri
Design engineer and biotechnologist Julian Melchiorri created Exhale to combine aesthetic beauty and environmental function with this “living” chandelier. The stunning centerpiece is composed of 70 glass leaves filled with algae that purify air and was on display at the V&A Museum in London as part of the London Design Festival, where Melchiorri was awarded an Emerging Talent Medal.
Green City Solutions CityTree
At just four meters tall and three meters wide, Green City Solutions' CityTree has the power of 275 urban trees. Created from moss culture, CityTree absorbs 250 grams of dust, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone gases daily, making it a creative way to combat air pollution. And with solar panels that collect rainwater and generate electricity, it can also test air and soil pollution. CityTree has already been installed in 20 urban areas, with a focus on India.