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Just Imagine

Previewing tomorrow's coolest tech designs

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN previews some of cool designs that could be on the market soon
  • A bomb-proof recycling bin could direct commuters in emergency situations
  • A stick would allow the visually impaired to read anything they want
  • One pioneering lamp doesn't need a bulb and burns for 20 years
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By Anouk Lorie
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Here's a sneak peek at some fascinating concepts and groundbreaking work being developed by 21st-century visionaries.

Designer Fatih Can Sarioz designed this table like a flower that can be opened and closed.

Some of these designs are already working prototypes, while others could be introduced in the next five years.

They present an insight into the kind of products that will become must-haves in the future.

Beyond the Fold

They leave you with inky fingers and are not exactly eco-friendly -- two reasons why some people regard newspapers as objects of the past.

With his 'Beyond the Fold' design, Sebastien Bettencourt of the Art Center College of Design in California manipulates physical elements of the e-paper to move the reader through digital content that can be accessed wirelessly.

By simply moving or shaking the paper, live information can be accessed.

Planilum light

Hate changing light bulbs? What if you never had to change another lightbulb again?

French designer Tomas Erel of SAAZS has created beautiful lights that last almost a lifetime. The planilum lights last approximately 50,000 hours, or 20 years, and use non-toxic gases and recyclable materials.

Unlike other light technologies, the light in these designs does not come from bulbs or other distinct sources but from the design material itself, called planilum. Photo See gallery of all the future designs »

Each planilum light panel, which can be incorporated into a shelf or table or can stand alone, is less than an inch thick and composed of four layers of glass, nontoxic gas, and phosphorescent compounds. Planilum emits a soft glow and can be touched without risk of burning. Also, unlike incandescent bulbs, it is energy efficient and 90 percent recyclable.

The lights are being produced by Saazs and come in various creative designs.

Dining table pod

'Kure' is a family dining table concept created by relatively unknown Turkish designer Fatih Can Sarioz. It is pure design at its best: practical, beautiful and innovative.

Can Sarioz says his inspiration for the table came from thinking about a budding flower that can be opened and closed at will. When open, Kure becomes a full-fledged dinning table; closed, it resembles a sphere-shaped futuristic pod.

A light source fitted at the center of the table emits a blue light from the base. The table accommodates six dining chairs.

Can Sarioz received widespread accolades for the design and is working on getting Kure onto the market.

Home for old batteries

We all know that throwing out old batteries is bad for the environment, but what to do when they conk out? Step in 'Energy Seed,' an aesthetically pleasing and innovative way of re-using trashed batteries via an LED lamp post that's powered with the left-over "juice" from old batteries.

The eco-friendly lamp post is the brainchild of Korean designers Sungwoo Park and Sunhee Kim from Kookmin University in Seoul. The 'Energy Seeds' look like flowers in a pot, with various sized holes for used batteries.

About 2 volts are needed to light up an LED. However, most discarded batteries have 0.8 volts to 1.3 volts, which means that two old batteries are enough to light a LED lamp.

Voicestick

Voicestick is a portable text-scanning device that was first created for the visually impaired, but could be used by anyone experiencing reading fatigue.

When it scans printed letters, the OCR function recognizes the words and converts the written text into a voice. The portable stick can be used to convert any words or letters found in books, newspapers, contracts, mail, etc., into voice information.

The designer, Sungwoo Park (who also created Energy Seed, above), realized that few books are translated into Braille because of the high costs involved.

He wanted to create an object that would be easy to carry around and would allow people with visual impairments to read anything. The Voicestick solves the problem and comes in would come in an elegant and convenient design.

The iBangle

I love my iPod, but I never listen to it because from one day to the next my little music friend finds its way to bags, pockets and shelves where I can never find it.

This is where iBangle comes in. It's a mixture of an MP3 player and a bracelet, making it mighty hard to misplace.

Created by Indian designer Gopinath Prasana, the iBangle is a thin piece of aluminum with a multi-touch track pad. To achieve the perfect fit, a cushion inside the bracelet inflates to keep it taut against your wrist.

As an added bonus, the iBangle eliminates the need for earphones that get impossibly intertwined because the music finds its way to your ears via wireless earbuds.

Bomb-proof Renew Bins

For obvious security reasons, few underground subway stations have bins. The consequence means having to carry your banana peel around with you for the whole of your journey, or worse, throw it on the floor.

Designers Kaveh Memari and Brian James from Media Metric think they have found a solution, and more. The duo have created a bin they claim would dismantle bombs through 'blast-intelligent technology,' help increase recycling and keep commuters up to date with breaking news, weather and transport information.

Brian James, chief operating officer of Media Metrica, said the technology "reduces the peak pressure of an explosion and extinguishes the fireball."

The bin itself is made from recycled materials and has an LCD screen on which information can be shown. In cases of emergency, such as a terrorist threat or drastic weather, Kaveh Memari told CNN that programs on the screen could be overridden and security measures communicated to the public.

Media Metric is in talks to introduce the bins in London and New York.

Lego-James

Most parents would like to know their children's whereabouts at all times for safety reasons. The challenge is to make something that also appeals to the children.

Say hello to Lego-James, a multi-faceted bracelet that allows parents to track the location of their children through 3G technology and the use of a GPS receiver, antenna and sim card.

Designer and student Rodrigo Torres from the Domus Academy in Italy told CNN that "the use of 3G technology is giving us more and more possibilities to develop different kinds of products, to communicate and transfer data through wireless networks at a very high speed, using small-size, and lightweight devices."

"At the same time, I also wanted the design to be appealing to children," adds the designer.

Lego-James also could be fitted with such accessories as an MP3 player, a LCD screen, a walkie-talkie and a digital pet.

Origami phone and DVD

The Origami Phone and DVD player is inspired by its namesake -- the Japanese art of paper folding. Inventables' Concept Studio applies the same folding concepts to physical objects using e-paper technology developed by Israeli company Mag-Ink.

The Origami DVD Player is a portable player concept that expands and collapses automatically as it is opened and closed. Mag Ink e-paper technology powers a full-color flexible display.

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Inventables applies the same technology to the origami phone: its screen expands for better vision as the phone opens.

Mark Tutton also contributed to this report.

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