Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Google Project Ara is the Innovation of the Year

It's been quite a year for innovative tech, but nothing else can touch Google's modular phone
Project Ara is the innovation of the year

Churning out new tech all year is the easy bit – it’s the coming up with brilliant new ideas to push things forward that’s the hard part.

And this year, the mould-breaking product that has captured everyone's imagination is Project Ara, Google's incredible system for creating a customisable modular smartphone.

READ MORE: See all our other Gadget Awards 2014 winners here

Winner: Google Project Ara

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

You might not be able to buy yourself one of Google’s DIY mobiles just yet but that hasn’t stopped you crowning it your favourite innovation of 2014. Using 3D-printed modular parts, Project Ara allows you to build the phone you want rather than the one the manufacturer wants you to have. You pick the size of the chassis and then fill the slots on the back with your desired features. That could mean a 4K screen, a huge battery and even a blood sugar monitor – and, crucially, an end to the identikit black rectangles we choose from now.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Google Project Ara

Runner-up: Dolby Atmos at Home

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

Think your 7.1 surround sound system is as close to home cinema nirvana as you can get without moving into the stockroom of your local multiplex? Dolby’s excellent Atmos tech has been in cinemas since 2012, but now it’s made its way to Blu-ray discs, using upward-firing speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling and give the illusion that it’s coming from above. Trust us, it sounds amazing.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Dolby Atmos at Home

Runner-up: Dyson 360 Eye

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

It’s been a long time coming, but Dyson finally joined the army of robo vacuums this year with its 360 Eye – and it has a few nifty tricks up its suction pipe. It uses tank tracks rather than wheels for extra grip and consistent movement, it has apps for scheduling cleans from wherever you are and a 360-degree camera on top for scoping out its dirty territory.  

READ MORE: Dyson 360 Eye is the robovac you've been waiting for

Runner-up: Lytro Illum

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

When Lytro announced its first camera in 2011, its post-focusing skills were very clever  but its photography skills didn’t quite measure up. This year’s Illum, however, has optical zoom, a bigger sensor, proper 30-250mm lens with constant f/2.0 aperture, and wireless connectivity, turning it from gimmick to gamechanger. 

READ MORE: Lytro introduces Illum, its pro-level light-field camera

Runner-up: Sony PlayStation TV

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

In five years’ time we could be looking back on the PlayStation TV as one of the greatest peacekeepers of our time. Plugged into a second TV it allows you to stream games from your PS4, so your family can watch Great British Fry Ups while you continue to chase entry to the Vault of Glass in Destiny. Arguments? What arguments? 

READ MORE: Sony PlayStation TV review

Runner-up: VRase

Stuff Gadget Awards 2014: Innovation of the Year

Oculus Rift might be the poster child for virtual reality, but with the tech almost certainly going mobile in the long term, VRase is arguably leading the way. Unveiled long before Oculus’ partnership with Samsung that's led to the Gear VR, VRase’s headgear takes any phone between five and six inches and uses the blower’s built-in chips to power your VR experiences. 

READ MORE: See all the Stuff Gadget Awards 2014 winners