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Innovation Wish List: The Best Ideas You Sent In This Year

This pose is required when thinking innovative thoughts.
This pose is required when thinking innovative thoughts.

Each week for the past six months, we've written about an invention that either solves a unique problem or solves a common problem in a unique way. We thank you, readers, for pointing us toward innovative solutions. Many of our weekly posts have featured your submissions. Who can forget the Case Coolie, which keeps your beers cold without ice?

In combing through our submissions (the form is here), we noticed that many of you have also submitted ideas for things that haven't been created yet — ideas you want to see become reality. And even though we usually don't write about those, we figured it was a good time to compile our favorites and share them in the hopes that other readers might be inspired.

In other words: This isn't a list for the "Best of 2013"; this is for the "Best of What We Want to See in 2014."

Which of these innovation ideas are your favorites? Can you make them happen, or do they already exist in some form? Maybe we can do some inventor/investor matchmaking. We're inspired already.

Reversible Tattoos

Maybe you want your body to be an ever-changing canvas of expression. Or maybe you're just regretting a late-night visit to the tattoo parlor with your now-ex-significant other. Brandon Porter submitted this idea: a tattoo that uses nontoxic dye in lieu of ink. "They can be permanent if desired, but if a person would like them removed at a later date, the tattoo can be reversed by a nontoxic chemical that makes the dye clear or break down in some fashion." Brandon says he'd use it. So inventors, you've got yourself an investor.

Self-Polarizing Car Windows

There are polarized and self-tinting lenses for glasses on the market — what if we could use that technology for cars? Quinn Kleerekoper suggested self-polarizing car windows to "reduce the glare or intensity of sunlight that distracts drivers during driving in the direction of the sun-setting, not to mention decrease the premature ageing of long-haul truck drivers." Some cars have sunroof glass that can change its shade, and there were some rumors last year that Mercedes-Benz was developing self-tinting car glass, but we haven't heard anything about it since.

Steering Wheel Fans

Another one for drivers: "Some video game controllers have built-in fans in the handles so your hands don't get all sweaty when you're gripping the controller for hours of intense game play," says Leah Philippon. "I would like to see this same technology incorporated into vehicle steering wheels." Heated steering wheels are already a thing, so it's about time to help out sweaty folks. And based on the connection between video games and the car industry this year, carmakers seem to have no qualms taking lessons from gamers.

'Clean Sweep'

Martha LeMay imagines a magical world in which people don't bring dirt into her house. Upon entering, they step onto a vent and "a powerful suction vacuum inside automatically engages that sucks dirt, mud, sand, pebbles, water, mold, dust, allergens, pet dander, etc. from the shoes." Martha calls it the "Clean Sweep." We found something like that online already, specifically for shoes, but her version is more of an all-purpose upside-down vacuum; dirty pets could step on it, for example.

Expandable Tupperware

"Have you ever tried to put leftovers into a container that was too small to get the lid on?" Don Rockwell asks. Um, yes, all the time. Reusable food containers, while incredibly useful in theory, have a very annoying habit of getting separated from their lids — and we think it's about time that someone innovate the kitchenware. Don's solution: "Why not have a lid that stretches or otherwise expands?" That way, you don't need to match up the tops to their containers, because one top would fit anycontainer. We could see pushback from Tupperware, which makes money off of us losing our container lids and needing to buy new ones.

Birdcall ID App

"Hiking is great fun, especially when there are birds singing, but I usually can't identify the birds based on their call," says hiking/birding enthusiast Jessica Saunders. She wants to see a birdcall-recognition smartphone app that can record tweets and identify who's making them. After a little research, we found that an app like this has been in the works since 2011. It's called WeBIRD (which stands for — take a deep breath — the Wisconsin Electronic Bird Identification Resource Database), and it seemed to be coming along nicely, but the creator, Mark Berres, wrote in June that he still needed more time. Mark, hurry up — Jessica is waiting!

If you want to connect with any of these folks about their ideas, don't hesitate to let us know in the comments. And if you have an innovation you want us to consider for our Weekly Innovation series, here's the form. Thanks from me (Emily) and your blog host (Elise) for all your participation this year, and we'll keep it going in 2014.

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Emily Siner is an enterprise reporter at WPLN. She has worked at the Los Angeles Times and NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., and her written work was recently published in Slices Of Life, an anthology of literary feature writing. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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