2005 is over. All the lists have been written. And all the gift gadgets and new inventions to buy during the “season of giving” have been bought or forgotten.

Newsweek presented their Holiday Gift Guide at the end of 2005.

Time Magazine came out with “The Most Amazing Inventions of 2005."

Let’s take a look at some of the new stuff and gift gadgets that became available in 2005.


Time’s most amazing invention of the year was “Snuffy.” Snuffy is an Afghan hound that is a full clone - created from a single ear cell of an Afghan and then, after being inserted into a donor egg, was carried full term by a surrogate Labrador retriever. Other mammals have been cloned - but this is the first dog. Sorry, this is one of a kind and is not for sale.

The healthy birth of Snuffy leads to the standard philosophical and ethical questions - “who are we, where do we come from, and where are we going?” Apparently South Korea, where Snuffy was cloned, is at least looking for the answers.

On from the ethereal to the “practical.” Michelin tires came up with an “airless tire” called the “Tweel.” A shock-absorbing tread band distributes the pressure to a bunch of polyurethane “spokes,” which are supported by an aluminum center - which looks like a wheel in itself. Kind of going backwards to the horse and buggy days. It’s airless, more rugged, and never goes flat. the big problem is that the spokes pick up the airflow and are just too noisy. More work is needed to make the Tweel more acceptable.

Still on the horizon is a hydrogen-powered fuel-cell motorcycle to be ready for 2007, which runs on a $4 canister that can power the bike for 100 miles;

and a four-wheel personal transportation system that looks like an egg-like Mars Rover. Sitting upright it is almost six feet tall, but drops into a reclined sports-car position for traveling approximately 25 MPH. Sensors detect obstacles and steering can be left or right oriented - or even foot driven. This new Toyota employee invention is a prototype only at this time.

A new invention that will save you some exasperation with your grocery produce purchases is the fruit/vegetable tattoo. Instead of those pesky labels that stick on the fruit even when you don’t want them there, comes the laser etching that will deliver the same information and more - like a ripening date, supplier, country, etc. No more peeling and cutting to get rid of sticky labels. The laser tattoo is being used now on a limited basis. This writer hasn't seen them yet - but it is said they're coming.

A new lifesaver is the “LifeStraw.” For about $3 - the LifeStraw is a beefed up drinking straw - that looks like a small telescope - that uses 7 types of filters and can make up to 185 gallons of water safe to drink. Great for Third World countries, natural disaster aftermath's, and even on a back country hike where you are not sure of the water supply. I guess FEMA wasn't told. they could have used them after Katrina.

How about a BIG walkman? This new invention is actually an exoskeleton that attaches to your body and can help the elderly and disabled walk and even carry heavy objects. It is the Hybrid Assistance Limb - or HAL (no relation to 2001’s HAL). HAL is run by a computer that picks up signals transmitted from the brain to muscles of the user so HAL can anticipate movements when the wearer thinks about them. (Woo-Woo - spooky)

For those Baby Boomers that blew their hearing at all those concerts - there is a device that plugs into most behind-the-ear hearing aids - turning them into a wireless cell-phone headset with built in mike.

All kinds of robots were shown in Time Magazine - but the coolest one had a face modeled on Marilyn Monroe and a long flowing skirt (to hide it’s three wheels). It is the Partner Ballroom Dance Robot - 5’ 5” of waltzing humanoid. Upper-body sensors help it to predict it’s partners next step. Just the thing for the wallflower who really wants to dance - and to practice, where stepping on the partner’s toes won’t hurt. A male model is not in the works - no skirt to cover the working parts.

And last but not least - there is one for musicians - especially traveling musicians - or one’s that don’t have room for a piano. I can speak to this one. There were many times we would go to play a gig and there would be no piano or it would be so out of tune it was horrible.

Now - all you have to do - is virtually roll out your keyboard. The keyboard is about 1/8” thick and rolls up like a blanket for storage and transportation. It only weighs about two pounds. The control has a built-in speaker.

There is more than one version of this new invention. The one featured in Time has a 61-key keyboard and is made by Yamano Music. I tried looking up their website for more info but, unfortunately, their site is in Japanese.

Newsweek Magazine featured the Hecsan Rollup Piano. In checking out their website I found that they have two versions - the one featured was listed at $149.95 - and they also have a Pro model that sells for $249.95 that is stated to be MIDI compatible.

My friends at Hammacher-Schlemmer also have a version of the Rollup - with a lot of features.

It plays 128 different timbres and rhythms, and it offers 60 demonstration songs.

You can simulate piano, organ, glockenspiel, acoustic and electric guitar, acoustic bass, violin, saxophone, flute, sitar, drums and a whole lot more.

It also can be programmed to make sound effects including a ringing telephone, applause, tweeting birds and a helicopter.

And it is compact: Roll it up, put it in a pouch and carry it with you. All this at about one-third the price of the above units. You can check it out here.

Roll-Up Keyboard

You’ve probably seen, or at least heard about the Roomba, the robotic vacuum. Now there is the Scooba, which tackles tile, linoleum, or sealed hardwood floors. It roams the floors - sweeps loose debris - sprays a special cleaning solution onto the floor - scrubs with a brush - and then uses a “squeegee-vac” to suck up the residue. Scooba works around obstacles and has “cliff sensors” to keep it from falling down stairs. Other sensors keep Scooba off your carpets.

Inventions like Scooba, Yours now.

These are just highlights of some of the new inventions that were featured in 2005. There were many more - and a lot of them dealt with "convergent" media - which we discuss on other pages. If you haven't seen any of these new ideas - keep looking.