Three Amazing Inventions that Will Change Lives

“I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others… I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent….”

In an effort to stimulate the spirit of invention, the 99% and Behance has decided to create the Alva Award. The Alva Award is taken from the name of Thomas Alva Edison, the legendary inventor.

With heavy support from GE and the knowledge of experts from different companies, they’ve screened numerous applicants in order to find the three most promising inventions from young innovators under 30 years old.

These talented people will be part of the Alva Emerging Fellowship Program, and will get an $8,500 seed grant to go towards executing their proposed project, a ticket to the 2012 99% Conference, a $1,500 travel stipend to be used to attend the Conference or visit GE’s campus, and access to GE’s manufacturing expertise and educational resources.

I’ve been following this on the 99percent since last April. Yesterday, May 4, the recipients of the fellowship program were announced.

Let me start with the one I’m most excited about.


Unbound Concepts

Imagine having to read through this much just to get the right book for class.

Ever had difficulty assessing which book or text would be most appropriate for different reading levels? Many educators, and students as well, often spend a lot of time deciding on which material would fit their reading needs. There’s really no way around it other than to read the whole thing yourself before making a judgment; something that can take up a lot of time.

Well, Unbound Concepts hopes to make things easier for people. It’s now currently using the software program LECTIO to create its first product: Bookleveler, an iPhone application that can scan a book’s barcode and tell you what reading level that book is.

Amazing right?


The second one is another invention related to education.


OneBeep is another software that can convert any digital file to audio, then transmit it through radio waves, and finally convert it back to its original form on a laptop.

Why do we need such an invention? Well consider the fact that most people around the world don’t really have access to new information. This isolation can be quite a deterrent to educators and students alike.

Other initiatives like One Laptop per Child (OLPC) have started by providing a laptop for each village in remote areas. However, this is useless because these villages don’t even have access to the internet or phone lines!

Although they don’t have internet, they do have AM/FM radios. Through these radios, they can receive information such as educational lessons from the outside world.


The third invention is all about improving the quality of living of disabled people.


The makers of OpenSocket point out a need to fulfill the prosthetic needs of people in developing countries.

If you think about it, prosthetics cost a lot of money. Why? Well, because they have to be custom-fitted for each person who’s going to use them. It takes a team of experts to make a prosthetic arm that fits comfortably for each individual. Ironically, most amputees come from the poorer countries (80%). Out of these amputees, 98% don’t have access to good prosthetics.

Well, IPT, the company making OpenSocket, has come up with a quality prosthetic arm that can easily be fitted to anyone, anywhere.

The team behind IPT believes in products that will be affordable to not only the rich people in rich countries, but to everyone around the world. From $5,000-$10,000, they’re aiming to bring the price tag down to only $500.

If they succeed, they will be providing 2 million people with quality prosthetics.


These new inventions sound really simple. But often, the simplest ideas are really what matters the most. I think I’ve written about this in an earlier post.

What about you? What invention are you most excited about?


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edX: A Revolution in Online Education

Note: This article is recommended for High Intermediate to Advanced Level Students.


Anant Agarwal, the president of EDx

Fasten your seatbelts everyone! MIT and Harvard have partnered to launch a revolutionary project that is sure to change the way we learn. It’s called edX and is expected to be a game changer in the field of education.

The announcement came yesterday from the presidents of both universities, Drew Faust from Harvard, and Susan Hockfield from MIT.  The project will be headed by Anant Agarwal, MIT’s director of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

edX was inspired by the popular Khan Academy, an online site that provides thousands of short lessons for K-12 (Kindergarten to 12th Grade) students. The founder of Khan Academy is Salman Khan, an MIT graduate himself.  The edX team reveals that many of its video lessons are based on Khan’s methods.

You may think that this idea is nothing new, considering the fact that many universities already offer online education for some graduate courses. But edX is more than just that.

Harvard and MIT courses at your fingertips!

Although its key goal is to provide material to students studying in their own campuses, edX will be open to non-students as well.  It aims to provide education for free to more than one billion people all over the world, and to offer certificates for people who finish its online courses.

Additionally, edX is a not-for-profit project. This does not mean that some aspects of the project will not be monetized. The project has to be self-sustaining, of course. However, top officials from both Harvard and MIT assure the public that they will remain true to their mission of providing free education.

Another equally important goal of edX is to research technologies that will be able to provide better online education; technologies that will personalize learning. The vast amount of information regarding how people use the platform will also provide valuable material for research studying human learning behaviors.  Someday, we may be better able to understand how people learn.

But Hockfield doesn’t want people to forget that edX is an experiment. Its team will be learning from the experience just as much as its users. In the last few months itself, the team has already learned new things.

One interesting revelation is that many people are interested in learning complex subject matters, just like MIT’s Circuits and Electronics course. As a matter of fact, the course now has 120,000 online participants, a number which is just shy of the actual enrollees for this course in the MIT campus.

Online edX learners would even go out of their way to create communities on the internet; communities which aim to give support to other learners and provide a means of interacting with one another.

It is hoped that edX will expand even further to include other top universities.

Harvard President Drew Faust and MIT President Susan Hockfield


Related Article:

MIT and Harvard Launch a Revolution in Education


Are you excited about the future of online education? Watch the video here and tell me what you think.

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Should Companies Stop Asking Consumers What They Want?

Note: This article is recommended for High Intermediate to Advanced Level Students

What do customers want? And how can we give it to them?

These are questions that most companies worldwide have tried to answer.  The surprising thing is, statistics have shown that it’s not all about asking customers what they’d like to have.

Consider this real-life example. A large electronics manufacturer recently launched a hybrid TV. The new TV could be used to surf the internet and watch regular TV shows. It’s a great idea right? In fact, the company had invested a lot of time researching on what the target market wanted. This new product was a response to numerous requests by teenagers for a TV and a computer in one.

Well guess what? It was a flop.

No surprise there. Riley Gibson, the CEO of Napkin Labs, says that in an effort to connect with the market, many companies make the mistake of trying to ask its consumers what they want. They think one customer is going to suddenly give them a brilliant idea that will make for a great product.

Gibson is not saying that people should ignore consumer requests entirely. He’s just suggesting that maybe companies should focus more on the little things, like improving user experience, instead of scrambling to create the next big thing.

Cool Personal 3D viewer from Sony. Too bad it’s so uncomfortable and keeps falling off people’s heads.

Examples of large companies failing to satisfy the market abound. Just look at the once-proud electronic giant, Sony. There’s no reason why Sony cannot come up with a device that the market will go crazy about.  It makes excellent products and has a superb R&D team, but Sony seem unable to make products that people want to buy.

Could it be because they try too hard to impress the market? Are they putting too much stress on hardware innovation? Is it wrong for them to think about attending to all their consumers’ demands?


THIS is what you want!

Jonathan Ive, the genius behind Apple products’ design, says that companies should just concentrate on making great products. He says doing focus groups and providing consumers with endless product models or options are unnecessary because the public does not have an idea what the future of electronics can be like. It’s up to the designers to create something that consumers will want.

The company has to make a really great product and confidently tell the public, “This is what you want. Buy it.”

Of course, the companies should also think about how its consumers will end up using its products. Because after all is said and done, user experience is what matters the most.

User experience matters the most


Related Articles:

The Hidden Power of Mundane Ideas

Strategy Context and the Decline of Sony

Apple Design Wizard Jonathan Ive Explains Why Others Get It Wrong

Tell me what you think about this issue.

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Meeting the RareJob CEO

So, I know I’ve been working for RareJob for over a year now, but this is my first time to meet the CEO, Mr. Tomohisa Kato. During the opening remarks, he talked about how the idea of RareJob started.

Kato-san said that he used to work as a management consultant. At that time, Skype was still relatively new. He wanted to use Skype in a business, but he didn’t know what kind of business.

What business you got there, Mr. Kato?

Thinking about it distracted him even during business meetings!


On a trip to the Philippines, he visited the University of the Philippines (Diliman Campus). He was surprised to meet so many excellent people. He discovered that great workers were not only found in East Asia, but everywhere!

The world is bigger than you think!


Soon, he grew more excited to put up his own business. But he wasn’t that confident yet.

Fortunately, his friends Mr. Gaku Nakamura and Ms. Shem Balaibo were there to help give life to his dream.


Thus, in 2007, RareJob was born!

We just hope it wasn’t this painful giving birth to RareJob.


Today, RareJob is considered the no.1 Online School in Japan. It boasts 3,000 tutors and 100,000 students. The dream of Equal Chances for Everyone, Everywhere drives the company.

Tokyo staff with the company vision.

Some of the Filipino Tutors at a Tutor Gathering, an event held three times a year in different locations in the Philippines.


Someday, Kato-san hopes, there will be ten million (10,000,000) Japanese citizens who are fluent in English. Now THAT’S a big dream! Ten million is about 10% of Japan’s population right now. Kato-san shares that he got this goal from the fact that 10% of the European population are fluent in English.

Impossibly big dream??? Well, if anyone can do it the Japanese can! -not less, Kato-san. ^^ I mean, look at all the amazing stuff they’ve invented!

Like the Gundam. Japan’s got the coolest mechas, right?!


Of course, Kato-san also answered the question: If you’re going to put up an online English school, why choose Filipino tutors?

His answer?

Because Filipino tutors are adept at reading the atmosphere and adjusting to different student’s needs. They are also very friendly and surprisingly good at speaking English. These qualities enable them to provide exactly what most shy Japanese are looking for in teachers.

So there you have it! Looks like Filipinos have the perfect balance to make the most excellent teachers IN THE WORLD! -Kato-san’s words, not mine. hehe… ^^

When asked what differentiates RareJob from other online schools, Kato-san says he believes in his workers, excellent professionals who have the ability to discipline and motivate themselves. This idea is in contrast with center-based online schools where managers believe that workers have to be watched over lest they bleed the company dry with their laziness.

Anyway, his response reminded me of RSA’s lecture about motivation. Here’s the YouTube video:


I guess Kato-san knows something most CEOs don’t! And if RareJob’s track record doesn’t convince you of the logic behind this new way of managing people, then I don’t know what will.


That’s all for now!

Zoe >o<‘



This was my first time to attend a RareJob Tutor Gathering. I couldn’t leave without a photo-op with the CEO!

If you’d like more RareJob related posts, check out 11 RareJob Tutors You Should Meet or 9 Really Good RareJob Voice Introductions.


Zoe and Kato-san doing the Asian Peace Sign

Hope you don’t mind our sweaty faces! It was awfully warm that day. >_<”



I’ve taken the liberty of posting RareJob’s link to an old video about the company history. Click on the link below to see it. I know it isn’t perfect, but… oh, just watch it.

RareJob has been featured in a number of shows/publications like NHK , Japan Times, Elle Japon, and Nikkei.

In 2009, RareJob won the Skype for Business Competition.

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First Post!

Here’s to the opening of An Article A Day! ^_^


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