Best of What's New 2010: Our 100 Innovations of the Year

The most marvelous time of the year

Best of What's New 2010

It's one of the most enjoyable parts of my job: the moment in mid-October when a binder is dropped on my desk containing each page of our December Best of What's New issue slotted sequentially into place so that I can truly immerse myself in this, our annual celebration of superlative technological innovation.

I flip and peruse, slow and steady, trying to capture the full sweep before going back through and allowing myself to get sucked in by individual marvels. By the time I'm done poring over the entire package, I'm reliably gobsmacked by what human ingenuity has delivered in a single year. A solar-powered plane that will fly all night. A remote-controlled rescue buoy that can speed to a drowning swimmer 10 times as fast as any lifeguard. A completely reinvented crutch that's actually comfortable to use. And 97 more! No matter how gloomy my mood, no matter what ails me, this is a cure for it.

Another of my cherished tasks at this time of year is to referee the debate here about which of the honorees will be anointed with our grandest Grand Award, Innovation of the Year. I still remember with fond nostalgia the 2006 battle, when the $1.2-million Bugatti Veyron lost out to Bostitch's one-cent HurriQuake nail. And this year we had a similar contest, a duel between power and practicality, engineering audacity and design elegance, adrenaline and virtue. The Porsche 918 Spyder concept hybrid supercar was a tough contender, demonstrating that a top speed of 198 mph and a top fuel efficiency of 78 mpg can coexist under the same extremely beautiful hood. But even the realization of no-compromise motoring was not a match for our ultimate winner, an ingeniously simple and inexpensive green box that will make it possible to grow trees in the Sahara. To see why the Groasis Waterboxx is our Innovation of the Year, click here.