best invention tech innovation
The best inventions of 2014 include smart contact lensesCC

Notable futurists like National Medal of Technology recipient Ray Kurzweil claim that technological progress is accelerating exponentially, whereby the number of significant inventions and breakthroughs grows each year.

If true, this would naturally mean there were more technological advancements in 2014 than any other year.

With so many to choose from, IBTimes UK has cherry-picked a top ten tech innovations of 2014, listing our favourite inventions, breakthroughs and game-changing gadgets from the past year.


Mind-reading and memory recording MRI scan


The first ever commercial brain scan for the purpose of recording thoughts and memories for future playback took place in September. The inaugural patient of Millenium Magnetic Technologies (MMT) thought recording technology was software developer Anthony Broussard from Houston Texas, who paid around £1,200 to have his memories preserved.

mind reading MRI
A US-based neurotechnology startup became the first company to commercialise the recording and storing of human thoughtsCC

"Some people call it thought identification but it's essentially mind reading," Donald Marks, founder and chief science officer of MMT, told IBTimes UK. "The visual reconstruction (of the thoughts) is kind of crude right now but the data is definitely there and it will get better, it's just a matter of refinement.

"That information is stored - once you've recorded that information it's there forever. In the future we'll be able to reconstruct the data we have now much better."


Smart contact lenses


A smart contact lens that can monitor the glucose levels of diabetes sufferers was developed by Google in January.

Google smart contact lens
The smart contact lens contains chips and sensors "the size of glitter" to monitor blood sugar levelsGoogle

Coming out of the company's Google X skunk works division, best known for developing Google Glass, the contact lenses use chips and sensors the size of glitter to offer an early warning to the wearer by analysing tears.

"As you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study," the Google engineers said. "At Google X, we wondered if miniaturised electronics - think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair - might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy."


A camera that can record the movement of light


A camera that captures light at 4.4 trillion frames per second was invented by researchers in Japan, setting a record for the world's fastest camera.

speed of light camera
The STAMP camera is able to capture the movement of light at over 4 trillion frames per secondGetty Images

The Sequentially Timed All-optical Mapping Photography (STAMP) camera is so fast that it can capture the movement of light.

"High-speed photography is a powerful tool for studying fast dynamics in photochemistry, spintronics, phononics, fluidics and plasma physics," the researchers said.


Invisibility cloaks created with laser-stitching


Scientists at the University of Cambridge developed a new method to manufacture invisible "metamaterials" using lasers, leading to the possibility of invisibility cloaks.

invisible nanoparticles valev
A new method of creating "metamaterials" on a large scale could pave the way for cloaking devicesCC

Using an unfocussed laser light to stitch particles of gold together, the researchers created a material that reflected light through inverse refraction, making objects covered by it appear invisible.

Like a lot of technology in this field, the cloaking device is most likely to find its first applications in the military.


Printable, bendable batteries


A flexible, long-lasting rechargeable battery that holds the potential to transform wearable devices was developed by a California-based startup.

imprint energy flexible battery
Long-lasting, flexible and rechargeable batteries developed by Imprint Energy could be used in "weird parts of your body like your eye"Imprint Energy

Imprint Energy overcame current limitations of available battery technologies by using a zinc-polymer battery, enabling a new generation of power units that could be used in medical devices, wearable sensors and on-body electronics.

"(ZincPoly) enables the production of ultrathin, flexible, high energy density rechargeable batteries for significantly lower cost and without the design limitations of safety concerns of other battery technologies," Imprint Energy said.


Solar-panel windows


A breakthrough in quantum dot research by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory paved the way for windows that double as solar panels.

Solar panel window quantum dot
Researchers embedded quantum dots into glass to create transparent solar cellsLos Alamos National Laboratory

Quantum dots - nanocrystals made of a semiconductor - were embedded in a transparent polymer in order to capture the sun's energy and harvest it as power.

"The key accomplishment is the demonstration of large-area luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) that use a new generation of specially engineered quantum dots," said Victor Klimov, lead researcher at the Centre of Advanced Solar Photophysics at Los Alamos.


Smartglasses for the blind


Smartglasses designed to assist blind and partially sighted people by using a specially adapted 3D camera were developed by researchers at the university of Oxford.

smartglasses blind google impact challenge
Smartglasses to improve the lives of blind people were developed by UK researchersRNIB

The camera separates and highlights objects ahead and projects them on the lens to maximize the remaining vision of the wearer.

They are now being developed further through a partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People, with hopes that they will be available commercially in 2016.


Shape-changing robot


A major advancement was made in soft robotics, an emerging field that ditches rigid parts used in traditional robots in order to deal with uncertain and changing tasks and environments.

soft robotics robot MIT
The ultra-resilient robot "marks the emergence of soft robot technology from the research lab into the real world"Cornell University

Engineers from Cornell and Harvard Universities created a shape-changing robot to be used in extreme conditions in ways robots never could be used before.

"The soft robot is safe to interact with during operations and its silicone body is innately resilient to a variety of adverse environmental conditions," a paper describing the technology stated.

"(These include) snow, puddles of water, direct exposure to flames, and the crushing force of being run over by an automobile."


Bionic plant


Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed the world's first bionic plant in March, capable of replicating and even improving upon a plant's natural ability to photosynthesise.

Bionic leaf
Carbon nanotubes (orange) embedded in the chloroplast of a leafJuan Pablo Giraldo, Nicole Iverson

Carbon nanotubes were integrated into the leaves of several lab plants to allow them to absorb light 30% more efficiently than normal plants.

"They repair themselves, they're environmentally stable outside, they survive in harsh environments, and they provide their own power source and water distribution," said lead researcher of the MIT team Michael Strano.


Smart expiry label


A London-based student developed a bio-reactive expiry label that decays at the same rate as food, potentially making a massive dent on the millions of tonnes of food wasted around the world each year.

bumpmark dyson
Bump Mark, a bio-reactive food expiry label, won the UK round of the James Dyson AwardDyson

The Bump Mark, which was the UK finalist of the James Dyson Award, uses a natural substance to tangibly show when a food product goes off.

"The Bump Mark contains gelatine - a protein - that reacts to environmental conditions, like temperature and light and anything that affects food," Solveiga Pakstaite, designer of the smart expiry label, told IBTimes UK. "Gelatine sets solid but it has the property that when it is fully expired it loses its structure."