The Year 2009 in Technology: Inventing the Best

Zack Rosen

Hey, it’s true. 2009 had a ton of technology breakthroughs. Even Henry Ford would be impressed! So here I am, showcasing the best inventions of 2009
With the passing of another year, and another decade, comes the passing of another issue of Time that includes “The Best Invention of the Year.” Let me take you on a brief venture to see MY favorite picks of the top 50 best inventions of 2009.

Lighting the world for only $10,000,000: Philips Electronics, the guys who make your favorite televisions, MP3 players, and electric razors, became the first company to enter the U.S. Department of Energy’s L Prize competition this past September. The L Prize competition, which seeks an LED substitute to the common 60-watt bulb, is a hopeful competition for those fighting to better our world’s use of energy. If all 60-watt bulbs were replaced by LED bulbs, the United States could save enough energy and electricity to light 17.4 million houses per year.

No worries if you lose a controller: Every video game is different; every video game system is unique. The one constant factor, however, is how you play the game: joystick, mouse, trackball, et cetera. In 2009, however, Microsoft exhibited Project Natal. This technology allows players to control video games using only body movements and voice commands; that’s right, no joystick.

Beam me up, Scotty: Scientists at the University of Maryland’s Join Quantum Institute made a Star Trek-esque revelation this past year when they successfully teleported data from one atom to another a meter away. Certainly they’re not about to beam a human body (yet), but atom-to-atom teleporting certainly could enable computers to become even faster and more secure.

Preventing 9,000 deaths per day: Over 20 years after the virus was first identified, researchers have devised the very first AIDS immunization to protect people from becoming infected with HIV. A six-year trial performed by these researchers has proved somewhat effective: infection was reduced 31% among those receiving the regimen versus those receiving a placebo shot. The vaccine is still under study and has not yet been approved for use, but it’s certainly a strong start to fighting the disease that killed about 2.1 million people in just the year 2007 alone.

Curing blindness with technology: Researchers at MIT are working on technology that can help blind people regain partial sight: the microchip is to be planted onto a patient’s eyeball. The patient then wears a pair of glasses that, while recording with a tiny camera, communicates the images to the microchip. This, in turn, sends the signals to the brain. An outstanding development in the medical arena, this study is expected to begin on humans within the next couple of years.

Fooling musical prodigies: Fungi was used on Norwegian spruce and sycamore and then given to a violin maker. This hybrid violin was matched up with a $2 million 1711 Stradivarius violin and 3 others. Listeners in this September 2009 blind test were asked to identify the Stradivarius. 39 chose it; 113 picked the hybrid violin.

Pedaling for snacks: Spanish company Stereo-Noise has come up with a great new way to make vending machines healthy: attach a bike! Stationary bicycles are attached to normal vending machines, requiring visitors to pedal a certain distance to get a product. According to developer Pep Torres, this would be a great new way for people to “eat their potato chips and still get in shape.”

Seeing through your handiwork: Walleye Technologies may have the perfect solution for home improvement projects that require drilling into a wall: and potentially shorting a circuit by running into wires along the way. Walleye has developed a handheld microwave camera that allows users to see through the wall. Less than $500 each, it will be available in hardware stores later this year.

Time also released a list of the worst inventions of 2009: these included the Jane Austen Monster Mashup Novel, snuggies for puppies, and the gas-mask bra. Enough said.

What was your favorite invention of 2009? What would you like to see introduced in 2010? Email us at [email protected] and let us know!

Time’s List:
1.    NASA Ares rocket
2.    The tank-bred tuna
3.    The $10 million lightbulb
4.    The smart thermostat
5.    Controller-free gaming
6.    Teleportation
7.    The telescope for invisible stars
8.    The AIDS vaccine
9.    Tweeting by thinking
10.    The electric eye
11.    The Mercury probe
12.    The personal carbon footprint
13.    The solar shingle
14.    The handheld ultrasound
15.    The YikeBike
16.    Vertical farming
17.    The planetary skin
18.    The $20 knee
19.    A watchdog for financial products
20.    The electric microbe
21.    The bladeless fan
22.    The custom puppy
23.    The Cyborg beetle
24.    The biotech Stradivarius
25.    The Nissan Leaf
26.    The robo-penguin
27.    The universal unicycle
28.    YouTube funk
29.    Dandelion rubber
30.    Wooden bones
31.    The living wall
32.    The school of one
33.    The no-punt offense
34.    The human-powered vending machine
35.    The handyman’s x-ray vision
36.    Meat farms
37.    Packing, improved
38.    The foldable speaker
39.    The levitating mouse
40.    The edible race car
41.    The high-speed helicopter
42.    The supersuit
43.    The eyeborg
44.    Spiderweb silk
45.    The sky king
46.    The smart bullet
47.    The fashion robot
48.    The 3-D camera
49.    The newest cloud
50.    The world’s fastest (steam-powered) car

Editor’s note: For more about Time’s list of the best 50 inventions of 2009, check out