21st Century Inventions

21st century inventions – Can you remember when they launched?

Choosing to write on just a few indicative 21st century inventions is a hard task.

We are well into the current century and the number of innovations, especially in areas of computer technology, but also in other fields, are tremendous.  This page covers some indicative inventions, that are not necessarily the most important ones, or innovative ones – but they did make a lot of buzz when they were invented and have definitely left an impact.

They are likely to be some of the inventions that still resonate with us to this day and in the future, when we will think of the 21st century in retrospect.

21st century inventions #1: The Segway (2000)

It started as a well kept secret.  It was an intensely hyped mystery invention that was supposed to change our daily lives.  People in the know said it will completely alter the way we design our cities and will revolutionize personal transportation.  Steve Jobs, then CEO of apple computers predicted “it could be bigger than the PC”.

And then it was revealed, on December 2001: the Segway, the invention of Dean Kament , an American inventor and entrepreneur. The invention which was originally code named ‘Ginger’ was a ‘human transporter’. The first electric powered transportation vehicle that was able to self-balance. The first version could travel smoothly on several surfaces (from grass to sand) and was controlled by the rider shifting his weight to change the direction and the speed of the device.

The most innovative part of the Segway was a revolutionary technology called “Dynamic stabilization”. The technology allowed the Segway to self-balance, while integrating with the body’s movements.  

The invention is still used today, but it definitely didn’t materialize into the revolutionary promise it originally posed.

21st century inventions #2: Artificial heart and liver (2001)

2001 brought with it two new inventions (among many others), that might have not registered in your radar but made a world of change for those impacted by it.

The robotic artificial heart, known as the abioCor was the size of a softball, was self-contained, and worked on a battery pack that the user could strap to his waist. It was made of titanium and plastic and unlike previous artificial organs, had no wires or connections to external units.   When it was first implanted in a human being in 2001, it was deemed a huge success – it lasted 5 months, much longer than expected. However, since then the product didn't become a staple in hospitals cardiology units, mainly due to its limited usage and the fact that the product has an expected life span of 18 months.

Like the heart, the liver is also one of the most important and complex organs in the body – not something you can easily replace.

The bio artificial liver, uses human blood in one chamber and live rabbit cells in a solution in the other – with a membrane in between. The rabbit cells do the work of the human liver cells, replacing the purpose of a real liver – but since they are contained within a chamber, there is a reduced risk of infection or rejection. When it was announced in 2001, it was just approved for clinical trials and was meant to eventually serve as a liver replacement – either temporarily, to allow a damaged liver time to heal itself, or as a permanent replacement.  Today similar artificial livers are being developed using stem cells.

21st century inventions #3: Bluetooth technology (2002)

The Bluetooth technology was introduced to the market first in 2002. It was dubbed the first low energy peer to peer wireless technology, and was developed by a consortium of electronics manufactures, with the aim of connecting several digital devices over short distances.  The concept was first born in an Ericsson lab in Sweden in the 1990’s and went on to revolutionize wireless connection.

The beauty of the technology when it was just launched was that for the first time it has connected devices from different industries, introduced new possibilities for device development and changed consumers behaviors.

The first devices to hit the market were Bluetooth earpieces used to connect with our cell phones. Today, the technology dominates almost any consumer electronic device, fitness and sports devices, and others in the fields of smart homes, cars, medical and health.

A recent research report predicted 2 billion Bluetooth enabled unites will be shipped in 2013 alone.

21st century inventions #4: Roomba the robot vacuum cleaner (2002)

The Roomba robot vacuum cleaner might not have changed our world significantly, but it definitely made our life just a little bit easier.

A group of inventors originally from the Massachusetts institute of technology and then from the irobot company have created the round robot which runs on batteries and vacuums your house for you.  It has sensors which helps it navigate around the house, prevents it from bumping into walls or falling down stairs.

In an interview one of the inventors, Helen Greiner said how the company knew that in order to make it big with robots, they need to come up with an invention that will help people in their households: “every time we introduced ourselves people would say to us ‘Can you make a robot that will clean my house?’”.  And so they did.

The company developed other robots with different functionalities and target audiences, but the Roomba is probably one of its biggest commercial success stories.

21st century inventions #5: Apple inventions

Not much needs to be said about apple and their inventions during the 21st century. From the ipod, to iPad and iTunes to name a few – apple has changed the way we use technology to communicate, listen to music, consume information and much more.

The first on the list, the iPod, actually started up as a business idea of an independent inventor: Tony Fadell. His vision was to take an mp3 player and build a music sale service such as Napster to work with it. He wanted to build a company around it. However, Apple hired Fadell in 2001, gave him a team of 30 designers, hardware engineers and programmers and the rest his history – The iPod and iTunes store were born.

The iPhone concept actually originated as early as in 2000, despite the fact that the final product was launched only in 2007.

A worker of Apple, John Casey, sent his colleagues drawings of a concept idea he termed the Telipod - a combination of a telephone and an iPod. That original idea went through several stages of evolution, with the touch screen being added by Steve Jobs itself, before we were all introduced to the famous iPhone.

21st century inventions #6: Web inventions and sites that changed our lives

The 21st century is most definitely (among other things) the century that changed the way we use the web. Youtube, Google maps street view, social networking and Facebook are just some of the websites and technologies that are today an inseparable part of our lives, and didn’t exist 14 years ago.

YouTube was invented in 2005 by 3 partners Jawed Karim, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, and revolutionized the way we consume and share videos.  Google maps street view which in 2007 launched with 360 panoramic images of NYC, Chicago, San Francisco and many other cities and changed the way we navigate or look for addresses.

Social networking,  which is these days is an inseparable part of our daily lives and Facebook, its epitome, started in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg in his dorm room at Harvard.

Along with many other websites and brands they were all invented in the 21st century.

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