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November 21st, 2017 at 10:51 am

The 25 best inventions of 2017: Simpler home security and more

 

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A simpler home security system, a craft that will probe beyond the surface of mars, a VR headset and a DIY cooking companion.

A Simpler Home Security System

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Nest Secure / $499

Most home security systems are created to keep intruders out. Nest, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, built its Secure system“the complete other way around,”says chief product officer Matt Rogers, choosing to focus just as much on making it simpler for its users to get in. Case in point: the Secure hub can be disarmed by waving a key fob instead of typing a pass code, and those key fobs can be programmed to work within certain time frames—so a babysitter, for example, could access your home only while she’s working. A smartphone app also lets users manage their system from afar. (Similar tech exists from Abode and SimpliSafe, among others.) Of course, the Secure is plenty capable of guarding a home: if an intruder tries to break or unplug the hub, it will sound an 85-decibel alarm, and companion motion sensors can alert users when a door or window has been opened. —Lisa Eadicicco

A Craft That Will Probe Beyond the Surface of Mars

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NASA Mars Insight

The train to Mars pulls out only once every two years. That’s how often Earth and its neighbor move into alignment for the quickest possible journey from one planet to the other. NASA plans to make good use of the 2018 window, with the planned launch in May of the Mars InSight lander, which, as its name suggests, will give scientists their best look ever at the interior of the Red Planet. (The InSight was initially slated to launch in ’16, but glitches in its seismograph system led to delays.) Unlike Curiosity and other Mars rovers, this craft will stay in one place. But with good reason: it will hammer a probe more than 16 ft. into the Martian surface to study the planet’s thermal history—in effect, taking its geological temperature. Meanwhile, the seismometers will study Mars’ composition, an X-ray radio link will analyze wobble (the way Mars spins on its axis and is gravitationally tugged by other bodies in the solar system), and cameras will return panoramic and 3-D pictures. The space- craft should operate for 728 Earth days (708 Martian sols)—or until just about the time the 2020 flight is ready to go. —Jeffrey Kluger

A VR Headset That Stands Alone

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Oculus Go

For all its futuristic hype, virtual reality is a fairly clunky technology: even the best headsets require extra gadgets, such as smartphones or laptops, to work. Not so with Facebook’s Oculus Go, a $199 wearable computer that operates entirely on its own. (HTC and Lenovo are working on similar devices.) Its tracking capabilities aren’t as advanced as those found in its pricier counterparts—a function of having less physical space for computing power.“There are always trade-offs” when making something light enough to strap to your head, says Max Cohen, head of mobile product at Oculus. But Facebook’s goal with Oculus Go, which will launch next year, isn’t to create the most realistic VR experience; it’s to create the most accessible one. “[We want to] make it easy for people to say, Oh I don’t have to make sacrifices to get into VR,” says Cohen. —Lisa Eadicicco

The DIY Cooking Companion

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Tasty One Top / $149

With more than 100 million followers across Instagram and Facebook, BuzzFeed’s Tasty— which distills complex recipes into bite-size video tutorials—may well be the Internet’s most popular cooking channel. But there’s “a gap between being excited about seeing something on Facebook and actually doing it,” says Ben Kaufman, head of BuzzFeed’s Product Labs. So he and his team set out to close it. The result: Tasty One Top, an induction cooktop that syncs with the Tasty smartphone app to guide would-be chefs through different recipes. A built-in sensor and companion thermometer track temperature, so the app can tell users when to flip a steak, for example, to make sure it’s medium rare. Other companies, such as FirstBuild, Hestan and Pantelligent, have launched similar products in recent years. Tasty’s advantage is its already robust arsenal of recipes, spanning everything from cheeseburger onion rings to ice cream churro bowls. Both those recipes require deep frying, which “freaks a lot of people out,” says Kaufman. But having an appliance that makes it “easy and predictable,”he adds, should empower them to try. —Lisa Eadicicco

Via Time

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