The future doesn't just happen. It's made. These 34 visionaries are proof
that the sign of true genius isn't a great idea, it's the ability to make that idea a reality. These maverick thinkers have shrugged off the status quo and battled the headwinds of convention to bring their creations to life—they will entertain you, house you, reshape your body (and restore it when it fails); they will tantalize your senses and quite possibly deliver you a tomorrow of unlimited energy. Get ready to meet your makers.
The Spin Master
John Foley, 42, loved his workouts at SoulCycle but hated that scoring a bike felt like getting a reservation at Per Se. "There are probably 500 exercisers in New York who want into a single class, and maybe 5,000 people across the U.S., and 20,000 globally," he says. "To me, that screams distributed technology." So Foley founded Peloton last year to share top-tier fitness experiences with home exercisers. A former president of e-commerce at Barnes & Noble, Foley took his cues from the e-book business: paid content, inexpensive device. The Peloton bike, however, is anything but bare-bones: Designed to evoke the slick lines of an Italian racer, it features a water-resistant, Wi-Fi-enabled touch screen that live-streams classes taught by coveted spin instructors at Peloton's fitness studio in Manhattan as well as on-demand archived sessions. A real-time chat and social-networking platform allows you to interact with other Peloton users and track your performance on a leader board. The bike costs $1,190—about the same as much inferior spin bikes—and the unlimited content will run you $39 a month (close to what a single class at SoulCycle costs). "We want to be the Apple of exercise," says Foley, who also plans to sell spin gear (shoes, heart-rate monitors, apparel). "Apple cares about the aesthetic of everything—the hardware, the interface, the marketing. We're bringing that combination of cool sexiness and technology to the fitness category."
The Wrap Star
Finally, a real feel-good rubber: Jim Moscou and his Boulder, Colorado, condom company, Sir Richard's, have applied the Toms business model (and added a bit of style) to the below-the-belt accessory. After making an all-natural latex condom, the 45-year-old entrepreneur recently took sexual healing global by donating one condom to Haiti for every one bought here. A program is in the works for sending rubbers to Africa and other in-need regions. "It's audacious, I know," Moscou says. "But when you think about the cost of HIV and unwanted pregnancy, we have a chance to literally change the world." After this month, he will have shipped 1.5 million condoms—in specially designed packages with illustrated step-by-step instructions—to Haiti.
The Scent Scientist
Growing up in a coastal village in Brittany, France, Yann Vasnier couldn't decide whether he wanted to be a chemist or an architect, so he found a way to be both. As senior perfumer for Givaudan, Vasnier, 36, straddles what he calls the line "between science and art," working with the fragrance house's lab coats to brainstorm scents for $2.5 billion brands like Axe while also replicating the aromas of endangered substances like oud and patenting the peppery smell he created for Marc Jacobs' hit fragrance Bang.
Three to Watch: The Fragrance Archivists
The next great olfactory innovation will be the ability to "record" an aroma for posterity (and for reproduction). These innovators are making the ephemeral scents eternal.
Using a handmade still-like system, the 24-year-old Welsh designer places an object (roses, mince pie) over boiling water; steam absorbs the smell, which condenses in a tube and then drips into a beaker, where alcohol is later added to preserve it.
For seven years, Tolaas, 48, worked like a fragrance anthropologist, sealing scented objects in airtight cans. With an archive of more than 7,000 sample (including the aroma of money), she has partnered with fragrance and flavor manufacturer IFF to re-create selected scents.
The 26-year-old Brit is pioneering "fragrance photographs" with a machine called the Madeleine. An object is placed in a glass dome, and a vacuum sucks the aromatic air through a tube; it's then absorbed by a polymer-resin "odor trap."
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The Shape Shifter
On its surface, the "floating cloud" at London's Serpentine Gallery Pavilion this summer coolly illustrated a Japanese give-and-take between man and nature. But its architect, Sou Fujimoto, 42, went a step further: The roughly 3,800-square-foot structure had no real roof or walls, instead using slender white cubes whose edges seemed to disappear into thin air—building on his early radical transparent designs while appropriating both the physical and the digital meanings of cloud. "I want to create architecture that can embrace such complexities," he says.
The pavilion used 27,000 steel rods and was built in 49 days, all on "a little handkerchief of lawn," says Serpentine curator Sophie O'Brien.
"I've been called the music shrink," says Joel Beckerman, 50, the founder and lead composer of Man Made Music, who uses his studio as a therapy couch to get corporate clients to express their brand identities and then translates them into sound. Equal parts Philip Glass and Don Draper, he's the pioneering figure in the increasingly influential field of sonic branding. He's worked with more than 40 companies, and each presents the same challenge: Evoke a feeling that then becomes instantly recognizable, if only subconsciously. The results are indelible catchphrase compositions (called mnemonics), which can be as short as a few notes. AT&T's new "logo" was just four notes, but Beckerman and his team created a whole sonic library around it: a main anthem, long and short themes, and a six-note melody (incorporating the four-note logo); ring tones in various musical styles; start-up and shut-down sounds; a sound installation in its flagship store; in-game arrangements for the San Antonio Spurs (who play at the AT&T Center); tones for product placement on TV—each one designed to dial up the same brand in your brain. That's his aim: total recall.
His Greatest Hits
1. AT&T, 2011
To fit the company's new themes of uniqueness and humanity, he used boxes, a broken glockenspiel, a bagpipe, and "a crappy old piano."
2. SUPER BOWL XLVII, 2012
"We had to imagine every single game scenario," Beckerman says.
3. THE WEATHER CHANNEL, 2013
Its new sonic identity delivers "a passionate explorer kind of vibe."
Three to Watch: The Food and Drink Innovators
The biggest challenge for any first responder is going into a dangerous situation blind. As an M.B.A. student at MIT, Francisco Aguilar, 30, was so affected by the horror stories of rescuers crushed under rubble or poisoned by dangerous gas during the recovery efforts following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that he resolved to find a solution. With his classmate David Young, an Army vet, Aguilar developed a baseball-size throwable camera-sensor that stitches together images captured by six wide-angle lenses, records audio, detects radiation and carbon monoxide levels, and transmits the data back to a smartphone over Wi-Fi. The device, nicknamed the Explorer, is in the final stages of production and is drawing interest from many law-enforcement agencies, but Aguilar expects it to find an audience among hobbyists as well: "One nature photographer wanted to roll it into an animal burrow to see what's inside."
Above: A rubber coating protects six cameras, each of which is surrounded by four infrared illuminators that can capture images in total darkness.
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The Running Men
Nike's Free Hyperfeel Team
Say hello to the Nike super-shoe: Like a fitness Frankenstein, the Free Hyperfeel takes the best elements of the company's most recent releases and turns them into a breakthrough, better-than-barefoot minimalist running shoe. Weighing just 6.4 ounces, it's made of only seven pieces—a typical Nike sneaker has more than 50—and took over eight years to engineer. Fewer parts make this shoe more like a sock in fit (knit and compressive) and feel (light and flexible). The trio who dreamed it up—Tony Bignell, 41, vice president of footwear innovation; Sean McDowell, 42, vice president of running; and Lee Holman, vice president of apparel design—dissect the revolutionary runner.
Three to Watch: The Disruptive Designers
This year, the design trio of Theo Richardson, Charles Brill, and Alexander Williams took over a 2,500-square-foot space in Brooklyn to start producing, storing, and shipping their works—like the new aluminum Gala chandelier (shown here)—themselves. "We've just been trying to give our work a more human touch," Richardson says.
The E-Commerce Curator
Somehow, high-end design has missed out on the explosion of e-commerce destinations. But serial maverick Ambra Medda, 32, who first upended the industry in 2005 when she cofounded Design Miami, is filling the void with a site she's calling a "Wikipedia of design": L'ArcoBaleno. With backing from the likes of Tom Dixon and Reed Krakoff, it has her trademark mix of cutting-edge galleries and well-curated next big things, offering both classic Marcel Breuer chairs and exclusives from emerging stars like Moritz Waldemeyer. "If we don't help you discover new things," Medda says, "we will have failed."
Ambra Medda's design site, L'ArcoBaleno, sells stylish wares like the daybed and rattan stool above, both by designer Joseph-André Motte.
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The Bionic Man
Ever since Hugh Herr lost both legs below the knee in a rock-climbing accident at 17, he's devoted himself to trying to create a prosthetic device that works as well as or better than biological limbs. Now 48 and the biomechatronics director at the MIT Media Lab, Herr has succeeded in developing the BiOM ankle, a revolutionary prosthesis that can move fluidly over any kind of terrain thanks to a microchip programmed to respond like the body's own tendons and muscles. "At my age, the bionic part of me is better than the biological part," Herr says of the BiOM, which he's worn since 2006. In the not-too-distant future, a slew of prosthetically enhanced octogenarians might even pass you in a 10K race. "It's the end of disability," Herr says of our coming bionic age. "And it's even better than immortality, because you get better with age."
Above: Hugh Herr in the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Power Ranger
There are happy accidents all the time, but few unexpected discoveries have the potential to influence history like Ric Kaner's. The 55-year-old UCLA chemistry professor had been trying to develop more efficient ways to produce a new carbon-based material called graphene, one of the strongest substances known to man, but he and his assistant, Maher El-Kady, found that when they exposed the material to light in the lab, it transformed into a super-capacitor—in other words, a highly efficient, biodegradable power source capable of charging 30 to 100 times faster than current lithium-ion batteries, juicing up smartphones and, potentially, electric cars in seconds. Although batteries are a few years from the market, the race to harness the full paradigm-shifting potential of Kaner's discovery is already on. "As people become more familiar with the technology, they'll find new applications for it," he says.
Above: Graphene being made in Kaner's UCLA lab
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The Spice Alchemist
Lior Lev Sercarz
Before there's a recipe for one of his taste-bud-bending spice mixes, Lior Lev Sercarz says, there has to be a story. "I want to understand the message," says Lev Sercarz, 41, who began his culinary career in the Israeli army before falling under the spell of coriander and cumin. He makes his custom blends (either sold out of his New York City shop or served as proprietary creations for chefs like Daniel Boulud) using an intense process of researching, toasting, grinding, and combining the ingredients—it's part precision science, part poetry. "It's like how a painter understands what color can be created by mixing different paints together," he says.
Lev Sercarz's custom spice mixes (clockwise from top): Shabazi N.38, Luberon N.4, Cancale N.11, Ana N.36, O.M.G N.42, Sheba N.40, and Salvador N.19
4 Chefs Who Cook With His Creations
SPICE: Cancale N.11
INGREDIENTS: Fleur de sel, orange, and fennel
DISH: Seared skate with sautéed romaine lettuce and pickled scallions
Restaurant Marc Forgione, New York City
SPICE: Ararat N.35
INGREDIENTS: Smoked paprika, urfa, and fenugreek leaves
DISH: Barbecue baked oysters
SPICE: Sheba N.40
INGREDIENTS: Paprika, ginger, and cumin
DISH: Braised short ribs, coffee, and apples
Oleana, Cambridge, Massachusetts
SPICE: Ana N.36
INGREDIENTS: Sumac, sesame, and rose petals
DISH: Rice pilaf in a phyllo crust
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Three to Watch: The Art World's New Naturalists
Sand I (Electric Crimson, Utah), 2012
A Machine, 2012
Untitled (Topanga Rain, Rope, 13), 2013
"Everyone can relate to sun and rain," says painter Sam Falls, 29, who cut long pieces of rope, covered them with different-colored powdered pigments, arranged them on bedsheets, and set them out in the rain—then he let them dry, turning nature into an unwitting collaborator. • • •
The Light Sculptor
Ever since he took his first sculpture of computer-programmed strobe lights to Burning Man in 1997, New York City–based artist Leo Villareal, 46, has been fascinated by the communal potential—the "digital campfire"—of LED sculptures. Crowds swarmed last fall's Buckyball (pictured) in New York, and more than 50 million people have seen his biggest project: Since March, The Bay Lights has featured 25,000 sequenced white LEDs on the suspension cables of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge.
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When MakerBot, the 3-D-printing start-up, was bought by manufacturing giant Stratasys in June for $403 million, it was clear that Bre Pettis' brainchild was destined for more than just making tiny Star Trek figurines. But serious business has always been the goal of the 41-year-old CEO: MakerBot's Replicator printers, which debuted last year, are already being used to make prosthetic hands for children and prototypes for the next generation of Hubble telescopes. In August, the Brookyn-based entrepreneur launched the Digitizer, a desktop scanner that reproduces objects up to eight inches tall, like a 3-D copy machine. "Just wait," Pettis says. "Soon, when you want something, instead of buying it, you'll say, 'I could make that.'"
A MakerBot Replicator printer
A Brief History of the Technology
A Dutch architecture studio will print all 11,840 square feet of its Landscape House as a single piece.
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