3 Awesome Social Impact Products

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Each year, thousands of beautifully designed gadgets hit the market that are undeniably awesome, but may not make a huge impact in the way people live their lives. The sad truth is: frivolous products usually get more media attention than their socially conscious counterparts. Today, we thought we'd rundown three of the cooler, awesomely designed social impact products that have come out recently.

1. Adjustable Eyeglasses

For more than 153 million people living in struggling nations around the world--people with poor or no eyesight--eyeglasses are considered a luxury. Imagine growing up in a country where even dime-store prescription glasses are a scarce or unaffordable. That's what makes the advent of adjustable eyeglasses so darn awesome.

Invented by Josh Silver and produced by his company, Oxford-based Adaptive Eyecare, Ltd., the adjustable eyeglasses use two flexible membranes filled with fluid. The wearer can adjust the refraction membranes him or herself, much like one would focus binoculars, until the optimal optics are achieved.

The impacts of these glasses are plentiful: they cost $1/pair (Silver hopes to sell a billion pairs by 2020) and don't need to be replaced every few years with a different prescription. Plus, a high level of optometric training isn't requiredto deploy the glasses. Do they work for everyone? No. The glasses only correct nearsightedness and farsightedness but not astigmatism. Still, for many around the world, they'll be seeing things in a whole new light.

2. Spider Boots

spiderboot1No, you can't exactly scale walls with these Spider Boots, but they're still pretty fantastic. In fact, they exist to make sure you DON'T scale walls, saving you (or the person wearing them) from being blown to bits by a land mine.

Experts estimate that there are 70 to 110 million active land mines in over 60 countries, killing or injuring more than one hundred people a day. In addition to killing indiscriminately, by rendering entire areas of a country "no-go zones," land mines can cripple an area's economic development.

Spider boots are here to change that. A study by Worrell, developer of the spider boot, showed that most mine casualties occur "because the shock wave comes from directly underneath the leg." The spider boot distances the foot from the source of the blast, thus sparing the wearer the mine shockwave.

A fragment resistant deflector shell then goes to work, protecting the wearer from shrapnel and debris. Finally, materials on the bottom of the shoe absorb the residual energy of the blast. The spider boot has won so much acclaim that one was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Now that's design!

3. The XO

XO-PCThere are two billion children in poor countries who have little-to-no access to education. If we could get them all on the Internet, we could provide them such access, but how to do it?

Meet the XO - a laptop developed by the One Laptop Per Child initiative, launched by MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte. These things can do a lot more than throw down Xs and Os on the tic-tac-toe board. They can record voice and video, access wireless, handle high heat and humidity, and speak tons of different languages. They also have specially designed screens designed to work in direct sunlight.

Can they break? You can try, but the XO has no hard drive to crash, and only two internal cables - meaning there are less things that can possibly go wrong. 2mm thick plastic walls internal "bumpers" absorb shocks and spills, and the darn things have gigantic wireless antennas which "far outperform the typical laptop." Very cool!

Built in web browser, built in calculator, a PDF viewer for e-textbooks, a music composer, simple video editor, a text editor, built in-Wikipedia... Deployed in +30 locations around the world, the XO is changing the way kids learn -- kids that are well on their way to changing the world.

February 17, 2010 - 4:07am
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