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The Best of Tech, 2013

photo by Robert Schlatter

Sculpture made on Type A Machines Series 1 3-D Printer, photo by Robert Schlatter

We present to you the most envelope-pushing, Bay Area-made inventions of 2013.

3-D PRINTING: Type A Machines Series 1
Two-dimensional printing is so yesteryear. Today, it’s all about 3-D printers, which can make anything from a pair of eyeglass frames to smartphone accessories. Now marketed at an affordable price and geared for home use, the Type A Machines Series 1 was designed and built at TechShop SF, where it’s currently available for members to use. Named Best in Class in Make magazine’s 2012 ultimate 3-D printer guide, this model uses PLA (polyactic acid) plastic made from corn, so it’s biodegradable and nontoxic. It couldn’t get more San Francisco than that.

HIGH-TECH SPECS: Google Glass with Evernote Integration
Scheduled for official release by the end of the year, the highly anticipated computerized headgear Google Glass comes fully loaded with the Evernote app, so you can share files, notes, photos, and webpages with friends and colleagues—plus sync across all your devices. It’s the ultimate in geek chic.

POSH PEDOMETER: Fitbit One
Fitbit is the original wearable, wireless, activity-tracking device. It was ranked as a finalist at the TechCrunch50 in 2008 before Nike even considered the technology. With last year’s successful relaunch as the Fitbit One, this sleek, pocket-size clip tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed. By night, it measures your sleep cycles, and come morning, it wakes you. Now you’ll need another excuse for showing up late to work.

BACK SUPPORT: Lumo Posture Sensor
No more balancing a book on your head—the Lumo posture sensor straps across your lower back and reminds you, by vibrating, to straighten up throughout the day. With its humble Kickstarter beginnings and its current $5 million in financing by the likes of Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Lumo is making the world stand a little taller, one back at a time.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Coursera
Winner of the TechCrunch Crunchie Award for Best Overall Startup of 2012, Coursera partners with top universities to offer online courses for free. Think 300-plus offerings from more than 60 international and domestic schools, including Stanford and Princeton. With more than 3 million students signed up, Coursera democratizes access to higher education.

PHOTO SHARING: Cluster
Just when you thought you’d never need another photo-sharing app, Cluster makes its case. Picture this: You’re at a destination wedding with 20 of your closest friends, and you all want to share pics of the bride in real time. Cluster allows you to collaboratively upload photos to group events into one big album. She’ll thank you later.

Photo courtesy of Leap Motion Controller

HANDS ON: Leap Motion Controller
A rising star at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) and SXSW, the Leap Motion Controller changes the way you interact with technology. Move beyond the keyboard and voice commands—this USB device simply tracks your hand gestures to browse the web, flip through articles, play music, or make art on your computer. It’s a whole new world of hands-free.

FUNDRAISER: Watsi
Watsi, the first nonprofit from Y Combinator (the business incubator that gives seed funding to startups), is a global funding platform for medical treatments. Like Kickstarter for healthcare, it allows you to contribute money to people who are in need of everything from exams to expensive procedures. Attempting to use the crowd-funding model for social good, the site takes extra care in proving the legitimacy of its patients’ cases.

ELECTRIC CAR: Tesla Model S
Tesla’s Model S electric vehicle started hitting streets last summer, and it’s quickly racking up the accolades for its racer-like acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds), powertrain (which uses energy 300 percent more efficiently than a gas-burning engine), 60-plus kWh auto-grade, lithium-ion cell battery that can drive up to 208 miles, and a low center of gravity. Motor Trend and Automobile magazines have already named it the 2013 Car of the Year, and it’s got Wired, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times gushing. It’s no surprise that it’s the object of auto desire for many startup scenesters.

PAY WHAT YOU WISH CAR SERVICE: Lyft
In a city driven by Uber, Lyft provides a playful alternative (hello, pink mustache and fist-bumping drivers). And it offers a unique pay structure to boot: Trips cost a suggested donation instead of a metered fare—just a few of the ways this ride-sharing service makes the experience of driving with a stranger a little more palatable.

This article was published in 7x7's June issue. Click here to subscribe.