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At first glance, Stanford’s Cool Products Expo looked like a regular college career fair. That is, until I saw the solar-powered car, tilting trike, Tesla car and BMW’s hydrogen car parked on the lawn. Inside the packed hall, instead of suits touting companies there were dozens of, well, cool products. They ranged from a design student’s clever silicone vegetable steamer to Belkin’s newest remote control energy-saving surge protector. I loved that there was a broad mix of stuff, ranging from out-there prototypes to quite polished final products already on the market. (The most fun to look at were of course the former.)

How did they choose what to include? As Tom Nguyen, one of the organizers, put it in an email: “Well, they have a cool-factor that requires no explanation (you’ll know it when you see it), they’re radically new rather than improvements on existing products, and they represent an essential combination of design form and function.” (By the way, that’s him up above with Joe Wilcox’s fun-to-ride Tilting Trike.)

Here are a few of the things that really stuck in my mind (and more in my Flickr set).

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Brent Teal is a total maker–he built this Glide Cycle prototype in his garage after a friend of his wanted to continue jogging despite his bad knees. It’s like a cross between an elliptical machine and a bicycle–the demo video is hypnotic. Elliptigo

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I’ve fantasized about wireless chargers for years, so it was a thrill to see one in action. You buy WildCharge cases for your various devices, and then you lay them down on the charging pad. Voila! Maybe not the most efficient way to go, but it is cool.

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Speaking of chargers, this one was also nice: the HY Mini, which allows you to charge up your cellphone with either a tiny solar cell or a mini fan. Jason Wang was manning the table when I stopped by, and he said he charges his cellphone as he drives to work by sticking the fan on his car.

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On the non-commercial side of the spectrum was the Embrace Infant Thermoregulator, which replaces expensive incubators with a simple, portable $25 sleeping bag with a phase-change material insert.

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And I totally loved MagnoGrip‘s awesome magnetic belt clips, tool pouches, carpenter belts, and other construction accessories. Suspenders are cool again!


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