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Popular Mechanics Honors Year's Most Life-Changing Devices

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The Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards, recently given at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, honor some of the most amazing innovations from 2012. NY1's Technology reporter Adam Balkin filed the following report.

Take a North Face Vest and backpack that inflates to help hikers stay on top of avalanche debris, throw in a system out of MIT and the University of Wisconsin that allows users to see around corners, add a dash of the latest innovations in rocket science, and one should now understand what it takes to become one of the honorees at Popular Mechanics magazine's annual breakthrough awards.

These award-winning innovations recognize range. Some are designed to someday have a direct impact on the everyday consumer, like Goodyear's self-regulating tire.

"The tire will sense when your pressure drops below a specified amount a regulator, will open an inlet valve to allow air into the tire until it reaches that inflation pressure and then it'll turn off," says John Kotanides Jr. of Goodyear.

Other innovations will impact people by making an impact on the planet. Developers of the Grooved Disc Oil Skimmer say thanks to that grooved disc design, it can clean up oil spills quicker and more efficiently than what is used today.

"There's a bit of a meniscus affect that oil goes into the groove and hangs in there, so we can turn it at very high velocities and recover a lot more oil than typical systems," says CEO Donnie Wilson of Elastec/American Marine.

Finally, a prosthetic hand out of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab not only moves almost identically to a human hand but also starts to feel sensations, just like a human hand.

"It has 26 degrees of freedom, which means it does everything your natural hand can do. It also has sensors on it, so actually when you touch an object you can provide sensory feedback," says Mike McLoughlin of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. "So you can tell how hard I'm grasping something or if I brush my hand across a surface, how rough that surface is based on the vibration."

For more on the winners, visit www.PopularMechanics.com/BreakthroughAwards.

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