Technology

Inventions: Marketplace of the future

What products will we embrace in the years to come? How about disease-detecting chips, bikes with self-inflating tires and calorie-counters that live in your stomach.

A 1 cent chip that diagnoses disease
George Whitesides, a Harvard University chemist, has come up with a prototype for a cheap “chip” made of paper that could diagnose diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. It works like a home pregnancy test, except that it tests a drop of blood instead of urine. At a cost of only one penny, the chips would be ideal for use in the developing world. Likelihood rating: 4.5 out of 5

A food analysis sensor that you swallow
The design group at electronics company Philips has come up with a concept for analyzing the content of food to ensure that consumers are eating a healthy diet. The diagnostic kitchen would consist of a wand, a sensor and a table. The inventors envision people swallowing the sensor and then waving the wand over their stomachs to determine their nutritional requirements. Then the user would place food on the electronic tabletop to find out how well that food would supply the nutrients his or her body needs. Judging from the success of other health and diet crazes, if the technology is actually developed, this could be a hit. Likelihood rating: 1 out of 5

A 430 km/h car
With a top speed of 430 km/h, the Melling Hellcat could supplant the U.S. Shelby SuperCars Ultimate Aero as the fastest street-legal car on the market. The final prototype for the sports car — equipped with an 1,175 horsepower, six-litre V10 engine — was unveiled in 2007. The Hellcat has faced some delays and is currently scheduled for sale in February 2012. Likelihood rating: 3 out of 5

A testosterone sex spray for women
California-based biotech company Vivus has acquired the rights to develop a testosterone spray for women. Trials of the drug — branded Lurimist — show that testosterone can be effective in treating women who suffer from low sexual desire. In one study, women who used the spray experienced a greater number of satisfactory sexual experiences per month. Side effects include itchiness and increased facial hair. Likelihood rating: 4 out of 5

A solar-powered bike with self-inflating tires
A new bicycle designed by Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman can play tunes and count calories burned during a ride. Cyclists can cruise along on the puncture-proof, self-inflating tires, and when they get tired, a solar-powered motor kicks in. Thieves beware: the bike has fingerprint recognition software with an “unbreakable” lock. Cyclists beware: it will cost $3,100. Likelihood rating: 4 out of 5

A zero-emission trike
Honda’s 3R-C trike — an eco-friendly concept vehicle that debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in early March — is a three-wheeler with a surprisingly streamlined design. The single-person vehicle runs on a lithium-ion battery and boasts zero emissions. It has two wheels in the front and one wheel in the back, providing greater stability than its two-wheeled cousin, the Vespa. It also has room for a locked storage area. Concept cars rarely go into production, but this vehicle is an interesting look at how auto companies may cater to the single urban commuter in the future. Likelihood rating: 1 out of 5

A hotel in space
Robert Bigelow, owner of the American chain Budget Suites, has lofty ambitions for his next hotel. He is designing an orbiting space resort made up of modules (such as the one above) catering to wealthy space tourists. The cost will be just US$1 million a night. Bigelow is currently looking at adapting NASA’s Orion space vehicle to ferry guests to and from the station. He hopes to launch a modified Orion for carrying humans within three years. Likelihood rating: 3 out of 5

A digital guide to the world around you
This device would instantly analyze images taken by its camera and provide helpful information about buildings, animals, cars, plants and other surroundings. Hold it up to a building and it would tell you what building you were looking at. Hold it up to an animal and it could tell you the species. The device would feature a touch screen, Wi-Fi, Google Maps and Google Earth. The concept, conceived by designer Mac Funamizu, won the Reddot Design Award in 2009. Likelihood rating: 3 out of 5

An electric personal flying machine
NASA has designed a one-man electric flight craft that will weigh less than 400 pounds. Named the Puffin for its unusual appearance, it takes off from an upright position but will cruise horizontally at 225 km/h and will have a “boost” speed for even faster transport. NASA estimates the machine will be able to travel 80 km per charge. While it’s still in development stages, NASA expects a one-third-size version will be ready for testing in a matter of months. Likelihood rating: 3 out of 5