Best emerging tech product of 2017

You'll never use it. But you'll use the amazing things it makes

best emerging tech product of the year formlabs fuse1

best emerging tech product of the year Digital Trends products 2017 awards badge

Every year, Digital Trends editors hand pick the most exciting products we’ve had the privilege of handling this year. Make sure to check out award winners in categories from cars to computers, plus the overall best product of 2017! Read on for the emerging tech products that floored us this year. 

Winner

Formlabs Fuse 1

Truth be told, you’re probably never going to use this 3D printer. Hell, there’s a good chance you’ll probably never even lay eyes on it. Though it may not show up under your Christmas tree this year, the Fuse 1 has some pretty massive implications for the future of 3D printing, which is why we’re giving it our product of the year award for Emerging Technology.

So what exactly is this thing? Simply put, it’s a 3D printer that uses a technology called selective laser sintering (SLS) to create parts. SLS printing works very differently than the filament- and resin-based printers you’ve probably seen before. To create an object, an SLS machine flashes a laser over a bed of superfine powder, fusing the particles together to form a thin, solidified layer. The machine then sweeps more powder over the top of that finished layer, and repeats the process until the object is complete.

SLS printing has a number of big advantages — but arguably the most significant is that objects printed with the Fuse 1 are actually durable and detailed enough to be sold as end-use parts. That’s what makes this technology so special. Whereas FDM and SLA printers are good for prototyping, SLS printers can make objects that are nearly as good as parts created through injection molding, milling, and other traditional manufacturing processes. In other words, they can make high-quality stuff that’s ready to use (and even be sold) straight out of the printer.

SLS printers can make high-quality stuff that’s ready to use (and even be sold) straight out of the printer.

But believe it or not, SLS tech isn’t what makes the Fuse 1 so revolutionary. The most groundbreaking part is that it only costs $10,000. Now, that might sound like a lot of money, but before Fuse 1 came along, even the cheapest SLS printers generally cost upward of $100,000 — meaning they were generally out of reach for hobbyists and small-scale manufacturing operations. The Fuse 1 changes that, and finally brings this technology down to a more approachable level.

This is a big deal because it means that instead of outsourcing manufacturing to a giant factory in Shenzhen, a startup could ostensibly just buy a fleet of Fuse 1 printers and use them to produce all prototypes and end-use parts in-house. So while you probably won’t see one in your workshop anytime soon, there’s a chance your next Kickstarter purchase might be produced with one.

Read more on the Formlabs Fuse 1

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Runners Up

If there’s one thing DJI is good at, it’s stuffing a ton of features and functionality into increasingly small drones — and nothing showcases this talent more than the Spark. Despite the fact that the drone’s hull is roughly the size of a Twinkie, DJI somehow managed to cram in many of the same goodies you’d find under the hood of the Spark’s bigger, bulkier, and more expensive brothers. In addition to its ultra-portable form factor, this pint-sized powerhouse boasts gesture recognition, obstacle avoidance, and a plethora of intelligent flying modes. Good luck finding that combo anywhere else.

Read our full DJI Spark review

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DJI Spark

At the beginning of this year, Future Motion released a new-and-improved version of its iconic OneWheel, which was originally released in 2015 — and while it’s definitely more of an evolution than a revolution, we’re honoring it as one of the best products of the year for one simple reason: fun. Of all the gadgets and gizmos we tested this year, nothing brought us as much pure, unadulterated joy as riding the OneWheel Plus around PDX. Electric skateboards be damned — this is the best bit of rideable tech on the planet.

Read our hands-on review of the OneWheel Plus

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OneWheel Plus
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