5 Amazing Innovations that Have Won Edison Awards

Some innovations rise above the rest on the market to earn the honor of an Edison Award.
Some innovations rise above the rest on the market to earn the honor of an Edison Award.
Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Every now and then, a highly anticipated new product bursts onto the scene, effectively causing a sensation among consumers. These hot items are no doubt the result of countless man hours spent designing, testing and marketing the product until success in the marketplace is all but guaranteed. But the competition is particularly fierce in today's tech-savvy world. Out of a sea of inventions, only a few rise above the rest to leave an indelible mark on a given industry. The people and companies who develop these inventions strive to make them so creative, valuable and with such staying power that they could earn an Edison Award, the prestigious honor given to applicants who meet and exceed specific criteria exemplified by many of Thomas Alva Edison's inventions.

Edison, for whom the awards are named, was no ordinary inventor. Not only did he rack up a still unsurpassed total of 1,093 patents during his lifetime (1847 - 1931), he managed to cross into an impressive variety of industries, impacting virtually every area of modern life (electric power, telecommunications and motion picture technology, to name a few). Chances are, you take for granted many everyday items that simply weren't in existence before Edison began to tinker with them. Read on for a list of five amazing innovations that have been granted the prestigious Edison Award.



i-LIMB Hand

For many amputees, prosthetic limbs have traditionally been associated with less than pleasing aesthetic value, as well as limited comfort and functionality. Thanks to continuing strides in technology, the i-LIMB Hand was successfully developed to address these issues. The i-LIMB Hand, developed by Touch Bionics, is the first prosthetic hand available with five individually powered fingers, which allows for vastly improved functionality.

The device functions when electrolodes attached to the surface of skin in the forearm pick up electrical signals generated by muscle movement. When the connection is made between the electrolodes and these signals, the gap is effectively bridged between the remaining limb and the i-LIMB Hand, allowing the user to turn what is often termed a phantom limb into a functional one. This feat of engineering allows the prosthesis to work almost exactly like a real hand, giving amputees the opportunity to enjoy such day-to-day activities that people with two functional hands take for granted.



WorldWide Telescope

The night sky is brought to your fingertips by the WorldWide Telescope.
The night sky is brought to your fingertips by the WorldWide Telescope.
Nicholas Monu/Photodisc/Getty Images

Traditionally, most budding astronomers have had to make do with a run of the mill telescope and a clear night sky to learn more about the universe around them. Worldwide Telescope (WWT) stands poised to forever change these limitations by giving anyone with a computer the ability to explore outer space. Developed using the Microsoft® high performance Visual Experience Engine™, WWT allows people to access the available universe via computer by utilizing data provided by the best information and images from both space and Earth-based telescopes. Users can easily explore stars and planets, watch planets and moons in action as they orbit, and study virtually any other aspect of the solar system made available by the most technologically advanced telescopes out there. The product was designed for the use and enjoyment of people of all ages, children included. Its user-friendly format and the wealth of information it imparts are just a couple of the major selling points for this product that quite literally goes above and beyond.


Tide to Go

It's a simple fact that everyone spills -- usually at the worst possible times. A spatter of spaghetti sauce here, a dribble of soda there, and a carefully selected outfit is ruined before you can say "marinara." To the relief of messy eaters everywhere, Tide launched the Tide to Go marker several years ago. The marker/pen, which is small enough to fit in purses, briefcases or even a loose pocket, is designed to save the day when food-related tragedy strikes. In the event of a spill, Tide to Go is best used by first removing excess residue, then pressing the tip of the pen to release the cleaning solvent as needed. Mechanics may not reap the same benefits, however, as Tide to Go is not as successful at removing oil or grease stains, along with discolorations caused by grass, ink or blood. When used correctly, the product (made from perfume and peroxide surfactant) can literally make stains disappear before the user's eyes. There's little doubt that more than one rising executive has averted a coffee-related clothing crisis thanks to this handy, Edison Award-winning product.


Wii Fit

Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak tries out Wii Fit at an L.A. event on Dec. 11, 2008.
Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak tries out Wii Fit at an L.A. event on Dec. 11, 2008.
WireImage/Getty Images

Traditional video games have gotten a bad rap for encouraging sedentary lifestyles. Wii Fit, a Nintendo product, is paving the road to changing how video game consoles are used. The product has rapidly become popular among people who enjoy exercising, particularly those who find it difficult and inconvenient to visit a workout facility on a regular basis. Coupled with the convenience of exercising from home, Wii Fit also allows users to easily set goals and track progress. The recently launched Wii Fit Plus expands upon the original product's activity capabilities, offering multiple workout modes including yoga, aerobics, balance games and strength training. Variety is also a key factor in Wii Fit's success, with more than 60 different activities for users to choose from.


Apple iPhone

Developing highly influential and top of the line products is really nothing new for Apple. The mega-company may have topped itself with the launch of the hugely successful iPhone, which quite literally puts the world at your fingertips. Billed as three devices in one, the iPhone is an iPod, Internet device and phone, all with heightened capabilities. The touch screen phone is user-friendly enough for people of all ages and technological persuasions to navigate. The iPod allows users to purchase and play music, television shows and movies on a top-quality screen. The high-speed Internet component of the iPhone and the countless customized applications (maps, recipes, news, music and more) available therein has set the bar higher for competitor phones. The only minor downfall to owning an iPhone is that Apple is constantly updating and improving it, making each model sort of obsolete almost immediately after purchase. For the majority of iPhone fans, that minor inconvenience is nothing compared to the major perks that come with owning this pocket-sized cellular gem.


Thank Goodness for Retractable Cords, Right?

Thank Goodness for Retractable Cords, Right?

A retractable cord uses an attached spring to wind a long cord back onto a spool and lock it. HowStuffWorks looks at the mechanism.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Edison Awards. (Dec. 29, 2009).http://edisonawards.com/
  • Fisher, Adam. "50 Best Websites 2009: WorldWide Telescope." TIME. Aug. 24, 2009. (Dec. 29, 2009).http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1918031_1918016_1918007,00.html
  • The iLimb Hand. Touch Bionics. (Dec. 29, 2009). http://www.touchbionics.com/i-LIMB
  • iPhone. Apple.com. (Dec. 29, 2009). http://www.apple.com/iphone/
  • Tide to Go. Tide.com. (Dec. 29, 2009).http://www.tide.com/en-US/product/tide-to-go.jspx
  • WorldWide Telescope. (Dec. 29, 2009).http://www.worldwidetelescope.org/Home.aspx