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The Impact of Innovation

Memorable finalists and previous Innovation by Design award winners show how much can change in just a few years.

Nike+ Fuelband

Winner, 2012
Nike’s $100-plus fitness-tracking wristband had a simple interface and turned all activity into “NikeFuel points” so that different kinds of athletes could compete against each other. It seemed to be the start of a digitally focused path for Nike–but this summer Nike laid off members of its Fuelband team, and wouldn’t guarantee the device’s future.

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Lytro

Finalist, 2012
The boxy camera was a breakthrough, allowing users to refocus photos after they were taken. Image quality wasn’t high enough for pros, though, and the $400 price tag scared off casual photographers. Lytro regrouped and recently released Lytro Illum, a $1,600 ­camera aimed at the ­professional market.

The Fisker Karma

Winner, 2012
The electric-car graveyard is littered with beautiful, short-lived creations–including this Innovation by Design winner. Fisker Automotive Holdings filed for bankruptcy last year; China’s Wanxiang Group has since taken it over, and is working to remove the roughly 250 bugs that hobbled its electric sport sedan, the Karma.

Leap Motion Controller

Winner, 2013
This three-inch dongle transforms any computer into a Kinect-like device that can understand a user’s hand gestures. It’s now in public beta for developers and has been given an impressive upgrade: The device can read the joints and bones inside a user’s hands, like an X-ray, which enables it to react to subtle and hyperspecific movements.

WikiFoods

Finalist, 2013
Edible-packaging technology (which in 2013 went by the name WikiCell) turns sloppy foods into ­little pods that can be popped into our mouths. Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are now available at 30 Whole Foods stores. Next up: a café near MIT with a menu of WikiCocktails, WikiCheese, and WikiSoups.

The Lucky Iron Fish Project

Finalist, 2013
This fish-shaped mold of iron was distributed in Cambodian villages as part of a clinical study to fight anemia. (When added to a cooking pot, it infuses meals with enough iron to prevent deficiencies.) It’s now on sale throughout Cambodia and parts of East Africa and Canada. In the first half of 2014, 10,000 of the fish were sold–and NGOs in the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam are now considering them as well.

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