Popular Science announced the 2020 “Best of What’s New” Award winners, the 100 most groundbreaking, culture-shifting products and technologies of the year.
“The Best of What’s New Awards showcase the year’s greatest feats of human ingenuity,” says Popular Science Editor-in-Chief Corinne Iozzo. “Even in a year like 2020, innovation has helped us glimpse a future that’s safer, smarter, and more enjoyable than we might have thought possible. This collection, which includes everything from a new generation of Mars explorers to ultra-hygienic print-to-order eyeshadows, is full of items we’re proud to call the Best of What’s New.”
Innovators took notable steps forward in a tumultuous year, offering products to help update our homes, improve our health, protect the environment, and dive into more-immersive virtual escapes. The Best of What’s New Awards span 10 categories: Aerospace, Automotive, Engineering, Entertainment, Gadgets, Health, Home, Personal Care, Security, and Sports & Outdoors. Each winner not only represents a significant advancement in its category but also speaks to what we can accomplish together when global challenges arise.
This year saw a sub-genre of products emerge to help address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. A pair of massive tech rivals banded together, and what they created could change how we fight COVID—and other public health threats we don’t even know about yet (Exposure Notifications System by Apple and Google); telemedicine gained a new sensory dimension to bring at-home care closer to real-life office visits (MedWand); new eyewear subtly safeguards exposed faces (Stoggles by ROAV Eyewear), and PPE got a much-needed upgrade in an N95 mask that can be cleaned and reused (iMASC by MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital).
Companies also continued to make strides in sustainability, safety, and accessibility. Environmental awareness played a big part in creating synthetic insulation that doesn’t need heat from a fossil-fuel-powered oven (PURE Synthetic Insulation by PrimaLoft), climate-conscious custom jeans from only a smartphone scan of your body (Custom Jeans by Unspun), and a dairy protein that doesn’t come from cows (Non-Dairy Whey Protein by Perfect Day). Transportation innovations added new safeguards, including an airbag designed to prevent the most common head injuries during an accident (2021 TLX Passenger Air Bag by Acura), old satellites getting a new lease on life (Mission Extension Vehicle-1 by Northrop Grumman), and a safer wheelchair (LUCI smart wheelchair accessory by LUCI). And we saw a renewed focus on inclusivity in an eye-liner applicator that’s more manageable for everyone (Guide Wand by Guide Beauty), hiking gear that fits all frames (Plus-Sized Backpacks by Gregory), custom-fitted headphones (Fits by Ultimate Ears), and a smartwatch that detects signs of sleep apnea (ScanWatch by Withings).
- Security: Exposure Notifications System by Apple and Google (Innovation of the Year)
- Aerospace: Perseverance by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Auto: 2021 TLX Passenger Air Bag by Acura
- Engineering: Non-Dairy Whey Protein by Perfect Day
- Entertainment: PlayStation 5 DualSense by Sony
- Gadgets: GeForce RTX 3080 by NVIDIA
- Health: BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card rapid antigen test by Abbott Laboratories
- Home: LayerLock Roofing Shingle Technology by GAF
- Personal Care: Custom Jeans by Unspun
- Sports & Outdoors: PURE Synthetic Insulation by PrimaLoft
Other winners include: CLAW Drywall Picture Hanger from 3M; The Mink Printer by Mink; Crew Dragon by SpaceX; Autoland by Garmin; MiSight 1 day by CooperVision; Level Bolt by Level; Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit; Mavrik by Callaway. The complete list can be found here.