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November 19th, 2017 at 10:52 am

The 25 Best Inventions of 2017: Ember Mug, Smart Elevators, and Smarter Smart Phones

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Mugs that heat your coffee just right,elevators that move more than up and down, a smarter smart phone and more.

Ember Mug / $79.95

Anyone who’s ever sipped coffee knows how temperature can affect taste: if it’s too hot, it’ll scald your mouth; too cold and it’s barely worth drinking. By one estimate, you have only about 37 seconds to enjoy the brew at an ideal level of warmth. “That didn’t make any logical sense to me,” says Clay Alexander, CEO and founder of Los Angeles–based Ember Technologies. So he invented a solution: the stainless-steel Ember mug. Reinforced in white ceramic coating, it keeps coffee or tea at a precise temperature—anywhere from 120°F to 145°F, set through an app—for about an hour on its own and for an unlimited amount of time on its charging saucer. It’s the second in Ember’s series of smart drinking devices, following a temperature-control tumbler last year. And it may be poised to become a desktop staple: the mug launched on Nov. 9 and is already being sold in 4,600 U.S. Starbucks stores. —Melissa Chan

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Elevators That Move Beyond Up and Down

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What if elevators could move sideways, instead of just up and down? It’s a question straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Germany-based Thyssenkrupp has a real-life answer: MULTI, a system of elevators that ditches old-school pulleys for the same magnetic levitation tech that enables high-speed trains. The elevator cars can travel in multiple directions and even pass each other within a shaft—features that could not only reduce wait times, but also fundamentally “change how buildings are constructed,” says Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of Thyssenkrupp Elevator. (Think horizontal offshoots of straight, vertical towers.) Following a successful test this year, the first MULTI is set to debut in Berlin by 2021. —Julia Zorthian

A Smarter Smartphone

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Apple iPhone X / $999

To Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, the iPhone X is quite literally a dream come true. “I look at the design as something we really wanted to do since day one,”he says. It’s easy to see why: the X is arguably the world’s most sophisticated smartphone, with a screen that stretches from edge to edge, a processor optimized for augmented reality and a camera smart enough to allow users to unlock the phone with their face. (Though some of these features first arrived on devices from Samsung and LG.)

 

But in order to make it all possible, Apple had to kill the home button, a popular all-purpose navigation tool. Much like the company’s move to nix the 3.5-mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7, this decision was driven by “looking to the future,” says Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer. “I actually think the path of holding onto features that have been effective, whatever the cost, is a path that leads to failure.” At $999, the X is also the most expensive iPhone yet. “As you would expect,” Ive says, “there’s a financial consequence to integrating the sheer amount of processing power into such a small device.”

 

It’s easy to imagine a future iteration with a screen that wraps around the entire device, or a camera that can detect gestures. But for now, Ive and Riccio won’t divulge specific plans. “We have a clear vision” for the next generation of iPhones, says Ive. The X is “in some sense a completion of a chapter.” —Lisa Eadicicco

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Nike Pro Hijab / $35

It’s tough to play sports in a hijab. If the material is too heavy, it causes excess sweating. If it’s too light, it might fall off during competition. And if it’s fastened in the wrong way,“you can feel like you’re going to choke,” says Manal Rostom, an Egyptian runner based in the United Arab Emirates and the founder of the“Surviving Hijab” Facebook group, which has nearly half a million members. Nike’s Pro Hijab—which was put into development after executives met with UAE weight lifter Amna Al Haddad in 2016—aims to shift that status quo. Unlike a traditional hijab, the Pro is made with light, breathable fabric that wicks moisture; athletes who have used it report that it helps manage sweat. But for women like Rostom, who was one of the Pro’s early testers, there’s symbolic weight to Nike’s investment, as well. “I’m athletic, I’m outspoken, I’m empowered by a big company,”she says.“I’m representing what a Muslim woman can be.” —Sean Gregory

Via Time

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