As product development professionals, we are always on the lookout for new inventions that are making our lives better, easier, or more interesting – and that includes products that are just really, really cool, too.

And as technology continues to progress beyond what any of us could have imagined just a short time ago, there’s no shortage of new creations for us to gawk over. Here’s our roundup of four of the coolest inventions we saw in 2015.

The Nima Gluten Sensor

With gluten sensitivity and celiac disease both now firmly in the mainstream consciousness, many restaurants and food producers are doing their best to offer gluten-free products. But as anyone with gluten sensitivity knows, that’s easier said than done. Gluten can be transferred via hands, gloves, utensils, cooking surfaces … it’s a sneaky little particle.

Now, the company 6SensorLabs has come up with a portable gluten sensor, the Nima Sensor, that can tell you if there’s gluten in your food in two minutes. All you do is put a sample of the food into a one-time use cartridge, stick it into the sensor, and wait to see the happy face (no gluten) or the frowning face (gluten).

The co-founder of 6SensorLabs, Shireen Yates, is gluten-sensitive herself, and hopes to eventually create sensors for other food allergies, like peanuts and dairy.

Microsoft’s HoloLens

In case you hadn’t heard, virtual reality is old hat. The new virtual reality? Augmented reality. Instead of confining you to an imaginary, virtual environment, augmented reality overlays digital images over what you’re actually seeing.

In a gaming context, for example, that might mean fighting a zombie that’s in your actual living room. In an educational context, it could mean visiting a museum and seeing historical information about a painting or artist pop up next to a work of art.

While the HoloLens isn’t ready for consumer purchase yet, tests of the headset’s functionalities have been successful. In fact, it’s already being used by NASA – astronauts aboard the International Space Station can don the headsets to allow ground operators to see what they’re seeing, and provide assistance as needed.

The Safety Truck by Samsung and Leo Burnett

You know how nerve-wracking it can be driving near a semi truck? Not only are they huge and loud, but they also create limited visibility. This, combined with the limited visibility that the truck drivers already have, can spell disaster for drivers – in fact, it often does in Argentina’s narrow, windy roads.

That’s why Samsung and Leo Burnett, an advertising agency, created the Safety Truck (see the above video). A live feed from a video system mounted on the front of the truck is relayed to four screens on the back of the truck, which allows drivers to see what’s ahead. After a successful initial test with a single truck, the companies are working to roll out the Safety Truck system more broadly across Argentina.

Google Cardboard

All right, so it’s not augmented reality, but it’s still pretty cool. Google created a simple cardboard viewer that you can use with your smartphone to experience virtual reality.

It’s like the 21st century version of a Viewmaster: you insert your phone into the viewer, start a Google Cardboard-compatible app, and enjoy your immersive experience. Right now, apps include games, video viewers like YouTube, and educational apps like Expeditions, which allows teachers to take their classes on virtual “field trips.”

Cardboard has been designed specifically as a kind of populist alternative to the pricier virtual reality systems like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which cost between $600 and $1,000. Google Cardboard, on the other hand, costs whatever it takes to get your hands on some cardboard, rubber bands, lenses, magnets, and velcro.

We’re looking forward to seeing what amazing products our clients come up with this year. If you’d like to work with Pivot, contact us – we can help you with your product design and development, manufacturing, prototyping, and more.