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Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award winners poised to make a difference

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Albany/HV: Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award winners poised to make a difference
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The winners of this year's Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards are not only high-tech, they're also potentially life-changing. YNN's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

The winners of Popular Mechanic magazine's annual Breakthrough Awards range from use in outer space to those designed for your own personal space. And while the technologies themselves are "wow factors" on their own, it's how those technologies appear poised to actually make a difference in the world or our lives that wins them the honor.

For example, the BioTac sensors in the fingers of a prosthetic hand are made just like human fingers: round, squishy, even with fingerprints so that the fingers can register all the same sensations real human fingers can.

"The ability to detect where you make contact, how much force you're applying, which direction the force is in, the vibrations that you get as you slide your fingers lightly over textures or you detect slip over a surface, even the thermal properties that let you tell the difference between something that's metal or plastic based on how cool it feels," says Gerald Loeb of SynTouch.

Or, for someone who's lost use of their legs, the Indego Exoskeleton allows them to regain use of their legs. The user straps them on, and the device physically picks one leg up and then the other in order to make them walk.

"When you lean forward while you're wearing the device, it can sense that. It can actually sense changes in your balance point and it can respond," says Ryan Farris of Parker Hannifin. "So in that way, it's kind of like a legged Segway, we call it a legged Segway, because you lean forward, you walk forward."

Finally, there's a spray you put on any object, such as canvas shoes. Developers say it then turns that object into a super hydrophobic object, which quite literally means an object that's afraid of liquids. It's the mesmerizing Rust-Oleum NeverWet.

"When it hits a surface that's been treated, the water forms a nearly perfect sphere of liquid and literally bounces off that treated surface," says Lisa Skrdlant of Rust-Oleum.

Developers say NeverWet, because it goes on with a bit of a white tint, is not designed for clothes, though a perfectly clear, clothing-friendly version though is in the works.

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