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Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2022 Awards

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2022, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from water-conserving showers to affordable electric trucks. But of all the world-changing tech on display this year, these four innovations impressed us the most:

Whill Model F

Whill Model F

No matter how advanced or capable they might be, most powered wheelchairs available today suffer from the same fundamental flaw: They aren’t easy to transport when they’re not in use.

Sure, they can drive just fine on their own, but when it comes time to take them along for a longer journey in a car, bus, train, or airplane, they aren’t really designed to gracefully transition from transporter to transported.

Whill’s new Model F wheelchair addresses this fundamental problem with thoughtful design and some smart features. When not in use, it’s built to collapse down into a compact shape that fits nearly in the trunk of a standard car. It’s also exceptionally lightweight compared to most other powered wheelchairs, so it’s easier to load, unload, and haul around.

Ultimately, it’s innovations like this that make everyday life easier for mobility challenged folks, and that’s something we can all get behind.

Tech for Change: John Deere 8R autonomous tractor

John Deere 8R autonomous tractor

John Deere’s 8R might not be the world’s first autonomous tractor, but it’s almost certainly the best one. Deere has been building up to it for years, and it’s an absolute marvel of modern agricultural technology.

While computer-assisted steering has been a feature on tractors for years now, Deere’s new model takes the concept to completely new heights. The 8R’s autonomous drive system uses six pairs of cameras to sense its environment in 360 degrees. Those images are then fed to a convolutional neural network, which parses the images and makes sense of what’s in them. All of this happens in real time, and allows the tractor to do things like identify objects in its path, plan routes to intercept or avoid them, and just generally operate without the need of a human pilot. A farmer could single-handedly command a whole fleet of these things from a smartphone if they wanted to.

That’s what makes it such a big deal. This new system could dramatically reduce the manpower it takes to grow and harvest crops on a commercial scale. And in a world where nearly 1 in 9 people go to sleep hungry every night, that’s a pretty big win.

Tech for Change: Valencell blood pressure sensor

Valencell blood pressure sensor

Ever wonder why you get your blood pressure checked at the very beginning of every doctor visit, and before even the most minor medical procedure?

It’s because blood pressure is an incredibly powerful health metric. With just that one measurement, doctors can assess not only your current health status, but also your risk for a huge range of different ailments and afflictions. The only problem, of course, is that most of us only get our blood pressure checked when we visit a doctor.

Valencell wants to change that, and has developed a sensor for wearable devices that could make blood pressure monitoring as simple, unobtrusive, and ubiquitous as heart rate monitoring is currently. By shining a light onto your wrist, measuring how much bounces back, and letting machine learning algorithms make inferences with that data, the company’s sensors can estimate the pressure in your veins nearly as accurately as a cuff.

Best of all? This tech is currently making its way through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process. That means we might soon have cuffless, continuous blood pressure monitoring tech built into our wearable devices, which would signify a revolutionary new era for health tracking.

Tech for Change: GAF Timberline Solar shingles

GAF Energy Timberline Solar shingles

When it comes to putting a solar energy system on your roof, you generally have two choices: Either do it all yourself and suffer through the complex process of installing all the racks, cables, and electrical equipment by yourself, or dish out big bucks to have a team of specialists come out and do everything for you. Neither option is particularly appealing.

But what if it wasn’t like that? What if solar roof installations were neither costly nor complex? What if outfitting your home with a renewable energy system was no more difficult than putting on standard shingles?

That’s the promise of GAF Energy’s new Timberline Solar system. Unlike traditional solar panels, these shingles are designed to look and function much like regular non-solar shingles do, and can be affixed to your house by anyone with a nail gun and some basic roofing skills.

Timberline definitely isn’t going to render solar panels obsolete anytime soon, but the system’s low cost and ease of installation is a big deal. This could make solar power more accessible to homeowners who can’t otherwise afford it and boost residential solar adoption in a big way.

Also be sure to check out the winners of our overall Top Tech of CES 2022 awards!