Officially Amazing Innovation: Charting World Firsts Through World Records

Guinness World Records tracks the modern history of disruptive innovation

The tallest mountain, the fastest 100m sprint, the longest pizza. These are just three of the 50,000+ records you’ll find in Guinness World Records’ vast database of superlative achievements.

However, as well as measuring and validating a vast array of ‘world bests,’ Guinness World Records also researches and celebrates world firsts which, in the context of innovation, provides a unique perspective when it comes to tracking some of the world’s most exciting technological milestones.

Breaking new ground in tech

As you would expect, firsts in areas such as consumer tech are well represented. Back in 1982 GRiD Systems Corporation launched the world’s first clamshell laptop computer, which boasted a whole 512KB of RAM. These days, technology brands are using record-breaking to prove their innovative dominance, whether it’s for the world’s lightest laptop or the fastest 3D printer.

Innovation doesn’t generally happen overnight and some world firsts show just how long it can take to get a new concept from its first iteration into the mainstream marketplace. The world’s first VR headset was developed half a century ago in 1968 by computer graphics pioneer Ivan Sutherland.  Nicknamed the “Sword of Damocles,” the headset consisted of two soda-bottle-sized cathode ray tubes mounted on either side of the user’s head, with mirrors to project the image in front of their eyes. And for those of you waiting for current headsets to reach a weight where they’re comfortable to wear for long periods, just bear in mind that the “Sword of Damocles” was so heavy that the headset had to be suspended from the ceiling!

Necessity is the mother of invention

Some of the most creative innovation happens when there’s a problem to solve and this was exactly the case for French tattoo artist JC Tenet who had no choice but to tattoo using his left hand after losing his right arm. That was – until he met artist and engineer Jean Louis Gonzales at a tattoo convention. Tenet asked Gonzales if he would help him modify one of his old prosthetic arms so that he could tattoo right handed as well. The resulting ‘limb’ is the world’s first prosthetic tattoo gun arm and it is as much a piece of art as it is an engineering solution – a really elegant example of engineering and creativity working together to create something amazing.

At Guinness World Records we’re driven by the dreams of people from all walks of life and from those dreams comes innovation in all its forms.

Richard Browning’s dream was to push the possibilities of human flight through technology which inspired him to develop a jet engine powered suit. In just 18 months, Richard went from carrying out his first experiments with gas turbine engines in a field to setting a new Guinness World Records title for the fastest speed in a jet engine powered suit. Six months on, he began working with some of the world’s top brands to create gripping, gravity defying content, and has even caught the eye of Hollywood stars such as Tom Cruise. Unlike the first VR headset, Richard has managed to bring his jet suit to market in super quick time, so if you have a spare £340,000 get down to Selfridges and snap one up!


Keeping an eye on AI

When people talk about current innovation trends artificial intelligence is never far from the conversation, especially when it comes to AI replacing humans in the workplace. Automated assembly lines and driverless cars are already here, but what if AI were to enter politics?

Too late – it already has.

SAM (Semantics Analysis Machine) is the world’s “first AI politician” and is an AI designed to learn about and represent the political views of people living in New Zealand. Developed by Victoria University of Wellington along with entrepreneur Nick Gerritsen and tech company Touchtech, SAM is designed to respond to specific issues via Facebook Messenger.

Gerritsen says that the team’s goal is to test whether the ways in which people engage with politics and debate could be improved. “We’re asking whether an AI politician could provide the facts rather than push a party line,” he says. “We believe it’s time to consider whether technology, and in this case AI, can help us get better information to inform decision making on the major issues like water quality, housing, or climate change.”

As well as helping people understand policies, SAM is expected to educate people on how AI works and to inspire discussion about how public opinion is being influenced by social media.

Time will tell whether SAM is the antidote to fake news, but speaking as somebody who found the world’s first AI toy Furby a bit sinister, this takes things to a whole new level.

So what’s next?

Some of the record breaking achievements I find most inspiring come out of NASA who celebrate their 60th Anniversary in 2018. With any luck they will be adding another first to their haul of records when the Parker Solar Probe flies into the Sun’s atmosphere for the very first time. The satellite will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over the course of nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. Parker Solar Probe’s mission will make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in the Earth’s space environment – conditions that affect life and technology on our planet.

Beyond that, history is yours to be made.  We want to hear from innovators, inventors and disruptors – in fact, from anyone who believes they may have a new world first.  It’s that simple: you bring the amazing – we’ll make it official.

Samantha Fay is speaking for DISRUPTIONHUB at Disruption Summit Europe

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