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Designs for the future

What has been the most significant invention or discovery of the past 50 years?  VOTE NOW
Find out how technology, science and invention are shaping your world with Explorers
A young designer has created a slimline inhaler for asthmatics
A device that  measures drug doses could save hospitals billions
A cot that rocks itself could mean an end to sleepless nights
A smart helmet is set to make the road safer for motorcyclists
A hands-freee mouse could help disabled computer users
New ideas brewing in beer industry
Australian team designs  car that can read road signs
CNN asked leading figures to describe the inventions and discoveries that have changed their lives. 
Trevor Baylis: "The jet engine has had an amazing impact on our lives."
Richard Branson: "I love the freedom that my phone gives me."
James Dyson: "When I escaped to art school it was a Mini that took me there."
Susan Greenfield:  "Zips are fascinating to play with."
Kelly Holmes:  "Without planes I wouldn't be able to do what I do."
Colin Pillinger:  "All the ingredients for life on Mars exist."
Steven Pinker:  "My laptop has freed me to travel."
Renzo Rosso: "E-mail has become a tool I can't do without."

Got a bright technology idea? CNN wants to hear about it. Send your thoughts to Explorers and we will publish the best.

Electric idea

What do high voltage power cables which are held up by towers and wind-generated electric turbines (also held up by towers) have in common? Electricity and towers. Since electricity loses its charge over miles of cable, due to the resistance of conductivity through the cable, every "x" amount of miles, a power station is needed to boost the electricity to go further. If high voltage cable towers were combined with wind-generated electric turbines it could reduce the number of these booster stations. If enough windmills were added to the system it could become a self-sufficient power production and distribution system, reducing the need for the burning of fossil fuel and nuclear power stations.
Andreas Bauer, Netherlands

Reusable paper

I estimate that I throw away 80 percent of the documents I print on my printer. I read most pages and then throw them away. Why can't we purchase printer cartridges with magicians ink, which disappears after a day or so? The paper would then be reusable. You could even have different inks that last for an hour, a day, a week etc. How many forests would be saved by such an invention?
Avron Polakow, Tel Aviv, Israel

Space age

My idea for an invention is a simple system that is designed to change the velocity in air space travel into a vacuum that gains maximum speed. The achievements would be far greater than what air combustion propelled systems can achieve.
Via email, United Kingdom

Virtual reality

I am a retired software engineer and came up with a computer control interface 20 years ago. The idea consists of a holographic three-dimensional display unit, and ultrasonic sensors to monitor the user's movements. The user would sit or stand at the display. A workspace image would be projected, containing useful objects: images, icons, tools, and texts. The user would reach into the display to manipulate the objects -- typing at a virtual keyboard, "writing" and drawing with finger gestures, reaching to compose shapes and sounds, manipulating virtual controls. Standing, the user would be "dancing" with the computer (and would certainly get more exercise that they would by desk-jockeying). Add voice-recognition technology, and the computer would become the user's complete invisible friend.
Ric Carter

Security robots

I think that it would be great to have a spider-like robot in every home for security. It would have sensors that allow it to build up a 3-D model of the environment around it, and then using AI it could navigate that environment. For defense against intruders it could alarm authorities and rescue services, and release a sleeping gas to harmlessly knock out the intruders until the authorities arrived on the scene. This robot could also be used by police units to go into highly dangerous areas, and could save countless lives and money.
Stewart Ridgway


We are a group of friends and we've created a system for guitarists called Dropit. Dropit is a ring that you put at your index and a mediator which both are equipped with a magnet. The aim is to free your hand from the mediator whenever you want while you're playing by moving the mediator onto the ring. That can also be useful for other reasons. For further details check it on our Web site We've managed to show our invention to several professional French musicians and to a few guitar magazines and they all seemed quite interested and pleased by Dropit.
Yacine Benyahia

Brake it up

First I'd like to dispute the idea submitted by Gary Bowers, Pennsylvania (see below). He theorizes that sending a telescope into space many light years away would give us a chance to see 'into the past' sooner than normal. But how would we get the signal from the telescope to see what it's seeing? Even if it sent a radio signal (which happens to be an electromagnetic wave just like light) it would be sent at the same speed as the images or light traveling past it, therefore we'd receive the radio signal at the same time as we'd receive the original images on earth. It isn't a bad idea completely, because you'd probably get much better resolution without the interference of a few light years of space, but it wouldn't help us see into the past or the future.

My idea is multi-stage brake lights. Light braking would activate the first of three stages of lights, while medium and heavy braking would activate progressively more lights. That way there isn't a need to slam on your brakes when the person in front of you on the freeway lightly touches their brakes.
John Fritzke

A view from the past

I am a 20-year-old student, studying at California University, Pennsylvania, where I am majoring in chemistry. I came up with this idea the other day. I call it "seeing into the past" and it is based on the concept of seeing a star explode. The number of light years it takes that light to reach a telescope lens means it actually blew up many years ago. What if we could send a telescope in to space many, many light years out to view Earth? Other than the occasional cloudy day, or planets getting in the way, we could look into the past. If not, we could start a live recording of important events, and save them for the future.
Gary Bowers, Pennsylvania


Computer storage systems currently use flat surfaces for storage (e.g. tape, discs, etc). My idea is to explore the use of three-directional storage systems to make the most of the material used to store data. The concept is to apply the same electric charge, not only to the surface, but also the "body" of a storage substance so you could take on a new/expanded approach to storage and retrieval of data. Reading the electrical realignments and mapping would have to change dramatically from how it is done today. I can think of several ways of doing this. An additional benefit is that it would be stable to shock and movement.
Chris Roberts, United Kingdom

Wireless wireless

I am waiting for a portable Web radio. The wireless technology is already available and an increasing number of radios are broadcasting on the Net. The problem is, you still have to sit in front of your PC, or laptop, and even with a laptop you still have the vents' noise in the background. It would be logical to materialize all this technology into some kind of portable box, which could look like today's radios.
Franšoise, Paris

A flight idea

Add vertical takeoff capabilities to a small four-person aircraft, such as a Cessna 172. The launch method must be quiet, so that it can be used in any city neighborhood. A large helium balloon that is permanently tethered to a winch on the ground could lift small aircraft to 2,500 to 3,000 feet altitude for a drop launch. Once the aircraft has been lifted to launch altitude by the balloon, the engine could then be started so it doesn't cause too much noise at street level. Prior to launch, the orientation of the aircraft is changed from horizontal to a nose pitched down configuration with the elevator set for the pull out from the ensuing dive. After launch, the balloon is winched back down for the next aircraft. For landings, a large square type parachute that is attached to the aircraft fuselage could be deployed. The pilot would have the ability deploy the parachute in slow flight and to also guide and flair the parachute during the decent for a soft landing in a short field.
John Litherland, Canada

Good vibrations

My idea is a vibrating mouse, aimed at computer games lovers so that they get closer to how it feels to use a vibrating Play Station pad. I think they would love it.
Lutaaya Gaster, Uganda

Magnetic motors

My idea is a new kind of electric motor. Take a gas motor and replace the pistons with magnetic pistons and the heads to magnetic head, which will repel the pistons and be powerful enough to keep the battery charged up.
Paul L. Moore

Emergency curtain

I am currently a Sophomore Advertising student at Southern Adventist University. I have a couple of invention ideas. The first is that I always wonder if it is possible to convert power (AC/DC) into radio waves and wirelessly power portable electronics in a certain range, for example, cell phones and MP3 players. The second idea is to create an emergency curtain. What it would do is shield the view of an accident on the highway and therefore, people wouldn't slow down to see what's happening. The third it to use fiber optics under the exterior of cars for either animated advertisements or modification shows. The fourth is to create a cell phone wireless switch that goes over doors to churches, museums, theaters and other places of quiet that will force phones into vibration mode when they enter and flip it back to ring mode when they leave.
Thomas Helms, Tennessee

More leg room

In India, common brands of cars have a very little or no leg room in the back seat. So why not turn the back seats in these cars around, facing the other way, to make to most of the room in the trunk and give passengers more legroom?
Shriram Krishnan, Mumbai

Answer phone for the blind

I have several ideas for gadgets, but I'd particularly like to mention two. The first is an answering machine suitable for the blind and/or the elderly. There is not one currently on the market. The device should be a rectangle, roughly 7in x 8in, and at least 2in deep. The top surface would have five large buttons, each with indentations big enough to fit a finger tip. These buttons would be arranged so that a hand, placed upon the surface of the machine, would find a button under each fingertip. The palm area of the device --- the area on top not taken up by the buttons -- would have a fairly large volume knob. Each button, which, when pressed the first time, would clearly announce verbally its function and when pressed a second time within five to eight seconds would announce that that function was being undertaken. The other idea I have for a device is a friction-based heat generator. It would have the benefit of not using a flame or flammable fuel. The device would be roughly the same size and shape as a single electric hot plate. It would incorporate a hand crank and a compact, but powerful, coil spring. Some 70 years ago many American homes had record players that ran on spring stored power. Newer, better springs would be used to store and then supply the torque required to create the friction and resulting heat to allow the user to cook food on the top surface of the device.
Dan Lewis, Houston, Texas

Safer buildings

In the footsteps of Hewlett Packard, I have focused all my efforts and imagination on achieving a steep change in personal safety and security for all people working and living in tall buildings. My invention, which I have called EGRESS, is inherently safe and simple and bears the hallmark of 45 years' experience in designing and building elevators. I think you will agree that, when you look at the short video of EGRESS being built in my garage workshop, that if it works for 10ft it must also work for 1,000ft. You can see all of this at Click on "take a tour" and you will see a Power Point presentation of how EGRESS could work in practice. I believe the cost of fitting EGRESS is marginal -- less than two percent of all building costs -- to me it should be a necessity, like fitting life jackets in ships and aircraft. EGRESS is patented in the USA, UK and Europe.
Michael Godwin, France

Organic microprocessors

I have a technology idea. What about microprocessors made from organic materials that could replace destroyed neurons? Or making a connection with new microprocessors for faster neural pulses. Another idea is converting electrical neutral pulses to light for faster transmission.
Murat Akcanba■, Turkey

Hot stuff

I have a special kind of dinner plate. It keeps food warm for a longer period of time than existing conventional plates. My fore parents designed it many years back and it has been in my family for years now. I am thinking of trade marking it and getting it registered so that I can put it on the market. I have also designed a particular, peculiar design pattern for fabrics -- a bit like the Burberry design -- and I want to trademark it also.
Ken A Ejovwoke

Safer roads

I recently filed a US patent for an invention, which can be viewed at I have developed a remote Vehicle Stopper System, which would allow the police to immobilize a car safely. My system utilizes a remote control device, which would be located in a law enforcement vehicle. This remote control device, once activated by a law enforcement agent, can either: Signal all vehicles within a 100 to 300 foot radius to first reduce speed, and then ultimately stop. This system avoids dangerous car chasing. Or it can immobilize (immediately or later) a specific car if the owner has not paid his or her taxes for example or because he or she must be arrested for other reasons (child support, parking tickets, false alarm, etc.). I am sure you can see the benefits of this Vehicle Stopper System, mostly its ability to save lives as well as time and money. I am currently seeking potential users to create a prototype, as well as partners to further develop and promote my system.
Robert A. Dunand, New York

CNN reserves the right to abridge e-mails. Not all e-mails can be published.

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