The Most Useful Invention of the 21st Century: Ranking the Game-Changing Creation

Choose the invention you think is the most useful!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 23, 2024 06:54
Welcome to StrawPoll, where your opinions matter! We've witnessed some groundbreaking inventions in the 21st century that have transformed our lives - but which one takes the crown as the most useful? Now's your chance to have your say! Dive into our exciting rankings and cast your vote for the most revolutionary invention of the 21st century. Is it the smartphone, the 3D printer, or something else entirely? Don't see your top pick? No problem! You can always suggest a missing option and rally others to support your choice. So, gear up for an intriguing journey through the wonders of modern innovation, and join the conversation that's got everyone buzzing!

What Is the Most Useful Invention of the 21St Century?

  1. 1
    The smartphone
    Samsung Galaxy Note 10 & Google · CC BY 3.0

    The smartphone

    Martin Cooper
    It has revolutionized the way we communicate, work, and access information. It combines the functionalities of a computer, phone, and camera in one handheld device.
    The smartphone is a handheld device capable of various functions, including making phone calls, sending text messages, accessing the internet, and running applications. It is designed to be portable, and its compact size allows users to carry it conveniently in their pockets or bags. Smartphones revolutionized communication and have become an integral part of modern life, serving as an all-in-one device for personal and professional use.
    • Operating System: Android, iOS, Windows
    • Processing Power: Quad-core, Octa-core
    • Memory: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB
    • Display: 4.7-inch to 6.9-inch, AMOLED, LCD
    • Camera: 12MP to 64MP, Ultra-wide, Night-mode
  2. 2
    It has brought people closer and made it easier to connect and communicate with friends and family. It has also become a powerful tool for businesses to reach out to their target audience.
    Social media is an online platform that allows people to create and share content, engage in conversations, and connect with others. It has revolutionized the way individuals interact, communicate, and consume information on the internet. Users can post text, photos, videos, and links, and interact with others through likes, comments, and shares. Social media has become a powerful tool for businesses and individuals to promote their brand, connect with their target audience, and build communities.
    • Wide reach and accessibility: Social media platforms have billions of active users worldwide, making it a highly accessible and far-reaching communication medium.
    • Content sharing: Users can share various types of content, including text, photos, videos, and links, allowing for diverse and engaging interactions.
    • Engagement features: Social media platforms enable users to interact with content through likes, comments, and shares, fostering engagement and conversation.
    • Real-time updates: Users can receive instant updates and notifications, ensuring they stay connected and informed in real-time.
    • Targeted advertising: Social media platforms offer advanced targeting options, allowing businesses to reach specific audiences with their advertisements.
    Social media in other rankings
  3. 3
    It has made it possible to store and access data from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. It has also made it easier for businesses to collaborate and share information.
    Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing resources (such as servers, storage, databases, networking, software applications, and analytics) over the internet. It allows users to access and use these resources on-demand, paying only for what they need and use, without the need for upfront capital investment in infrastructure. Cloud computing offers scalability, flexibility, and cost-efficiency to businesses and individuals.
    • On-demand self-service: Users can provision resources (e.g., compute instances, storage) as needed without human intervention.
    • Broad network access: Resources can be accessed over the network through various devices (e.g., PCs, smartphones, tablets).
    • Resource pooling: Computing resources are shared and dynamically allocated to multiple users based on demand.
    • Rapid elasticity: Resources can be scaled up or down quickly to align with user requirements.
    • Measured service: Usage of resources can be monitored, controlled, and reported, enabling transparent billing and optimization.
    Cloud computing in other rankings
  4. 4
    It has revolutionized several industries, from healthcare to finance, by automating repetitive tasks and providing insights that were previously impossible to obtain.
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that focuses on the development of intelligent machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. It involves the creation of algorithms and models that enable computers to learn from and adapt to data, make informed decisions, and perform complex cognitive tasks. AI is often used in various domains, including military technology, to enhance decision-making capabilities, optimize resource allocation, and enable autonomous operations.
    • Processing Power: AI systems utilize advanced processing units, such as CPUs or GPUs, to handle complex computations at a rapid pace.
    • Machine Learning: AI algorithms leverage machine learning techniques to extract valuable insights from data, enabling adaptive and predictive functionality.
    • Natural Language Processing (NLP): AI systems can understand and generate human language, allowing for seamless interaction with users through voice or text-based interfaces.
    • Computer Vision: AI technologies employ computer vision techniques to interpret and understand visual information, enabling object recognition and image analysis.
    • Autonomous Decision-Making: AI systems can analyze complex situations, consider multiple variables, and make informed decisions with minimal human intervention.
    Artificial Intelligence in other rankings
  5. 5

    Electric cars

    Various manufacturers
    They are eco-friendly and have the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. They also have lower maintenance costs and provide a smoother ride.
    Electric cars are vehicles that are powered by electricity stored in rechargeable batteries. They are designed to be an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. Unlike internal combustion engines, electric cars use electric motors to propel the vehicle, resulting in zero tailpipe emissions and reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions. The batteries in electric cars can be recharged by connecting to a power source, such as a charging station or a regular electrical outlet.
    • Environmental impact: Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower air pollution
    • Range: Varies by model, typically between 100 and 400 miles
    • Charging time: Varies by charger type and battery capacity, typically several hours
    • Acceleration: Quick acceleration due to instant torque from electric motors
    • Energy efficiency: Generally more energy efficient compared to gasoline-powered cars
  6. 6
    It has transformed the way we experience entertainment, education, and training. It provides an immersive experience that is impossible to replicate with traditional media.
    Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation that takes place in a completely digital environment. It immerses the user into a 3D world with the help of specially designed headsets, often combined with motion tracking devices, to provide a sense of presence and an interactive experience. VR enables users to explore and interact with the virtual world, creating an illusion of being physically present in that environment.
    • Headsets: Head-mounted devices worn on the head to display the virtual environment.
    • Motion Tracking: Sensors and cameras tracking the user's movements and translating them into the virtual world.
    • Controllers: Input devices used to interact with the virtual environment, such as handheld motion controllers or data gloves.
    • Visuals: High-resolution displays with a wide field of view, providing a realistic visual experience.
    • Audio: 3D spatial sound to enhance immersion and provide an accurate sense of directional audio.
    Virtual reality in other rankings
  7. 7

    3D printing

    Chuck Hull
    It has opened up new possibilities in manufacturing, from rapid prototyping to personalized products. It has also made it easier and cheaper to produce spare parts and replacement components.
    3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects by layering materials on top of each other based on a digital model. This allows for the fabrication of complex shapes and structures that are difficult to produce with traditional manufacturing techniques.
    • Layer Resolution: From 25 microns to several millimeters
    • Materials: Plastics, metals, ceramics, resins, and more
    • Build Volume: Ranges from small desktop printers to industrial-scale machines
    • Speed: Varies depending on the complexity and size of the object
    • Accuracy: Typically within ±0.1mm to ±0.2mm
    3D printing in other rankings
  8. 8
    It has the potential to revolutionize several industries, from finance to supply chain management, by providing a secure and transparent way to store and share information.
    Blockchain is a decentralized, distributed ledger technology that enables the secure and transparent recording of transactions across multiple computers. It allows for the creation of a chronological chain of blocks, where each block contains a unique cryptographic hash of the previous block, forming an immutable and tamper-proof record. Blockchain technology has gained popularity due to its potential to revolutionize industries such as finance, supply chain, healthcare, and more.
    • Decentralization: Blockchain operates on a decentralized network, eliminating the need for a central authority or intermediary.
    • Transparency: All transactions recorded on the blockchain are open and visible to all participants, increasing trust and accountability.
    • Immutability: Once a transaction is recorded on the blockchain, it cannot be altered or deleted, ensuring the integrity of the system.
    • Security: Blockchain uses advanced cryptographic algorithms to secure the data, making it extremely difficult to hack or manipulate.
    • Smart Contracts: Blockchain can support self-executing smart contracts, which automate contract terms and conditions.
  9. 9
    Renewable energy
    Melanie Maecker-Tursun · CC BY-SA 4.0
    It has the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and provide a sustainable source of energy. It includes solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy.
    Renewable energy in other rankings
  10. 10
    Wearable technology
    Ka Kit Pang · CC BY 3.0
    It has transformed the way we track our health and fitness. It includes devices like smartwatches, fitness trackers, and health monitors.
    Wearable technology refers to electronic devices that can be worn as accessories or embedded in clothing and accessories. These devices are designed to enhance the user's daily activities or provide additional functionality. They typically connect to a smartphone or computer, allowing users to track data, receive notifications, and interact with various applications and services.
    • Health and Fitness Tracking: Wearables can monitor heart rate, steps, calories burned, sleep patterns, and other health-related data.
    • Smartwatches and Smartbands: Wearable devices in the form of watches and bands, offering features like notifications, GPS, music control, and app integration.
    • Virtual and Augmented Reality: Wearable devices like VR headsets and AR glasses, enabling immersive gaming, entertainment, and enhanced visualization experiences.
    • Smart Clothing: Garments embedded with sensors that can track body posture, temperature, activity levels, and provide haptic feedback.
    • Gesture and Motion Control: Wearable devices with built-in sensors to detect and interpret hand movements or body gestures for gaming, fitness, and other interactive applications.

Missing your favorite invention?


Ranking factors for useful invention

  1. Impact on society
    How much of an impact has the invention had on society as a whole, in terms of improving our daily lives, health, safety and well-being?
  2. Innovation and originality
    How innovative and original was the invention when it was first introduced, and how much has it changed the way we live or work?
  3. Cultural and economic impact
    What cultural or economic impact has the invention had on society and industry? Has it spurred new markets, enabled new industries or created new jobs?
  4. Longevity and sustainability
    Has the invention stood the test of time and proven to be sustainable over the long term? Has it led to further innovations or developments?
  5. Accessibility and affordability
    How accessible and affordable is the invention to the wider public? Has it been able to make a significant difference to those who need it the most?
  6. User experience and usability
    How user-friendly and easy to use is the invention, and has it been designed with the user in mind?

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most useful invention of the 21st century. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or invention is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 196 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each invention once every 24 hours. The rank of each invention is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most useful invention of the 21st century

The 21st century has been marked by a rapid pace of technological advancement, leading to the creation of countless inventions that have transformed our lives. From smartphones to social media, the impact of these inventions has been immense. However, when it comes to determining the most useful invention of the 21st century, the answer is not a straightforward one. With so many inventions to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow it down to just one. Nevertheless, there are some inventions that have had a profound impact on our daily lives, making them worthy contenders for the title of the most useful invention of the 21st century.

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