The gap between what an inventor sees as the main use for their creation and what people eventually do with is can be vast. Just ask Robert Oppenheimer. But some of the technologies that we're most familiar with have also been twisted into new uses - far from what their creators imagined. Here are ten of the most fascinating.

1. Smartphones as weather stations

The mobile phone in your pocket contains a lot of sophisticated sensors - for light, temperature, pressure, magnetic field and location, among other things. This data can be tremendously useful to meteorologists trying to forecast the weather, so British company OpenSignal has built an app called Weathersignal that collects this data from Android handsets and then uses it to improve forecasts. It's proved effective enough that the Met Office has expressed an interest in getting hold of the raw data for its own use.

2. Kinect for 3D scanning

Microsoft's Kinect sensor, originally built for games, has been hacked endlessly by developers keen to get access to its cheap-and-cheerful 3D capabilities, as seen in Buzzy electropop duo Avec Sans' recent video for Shiver.

Shortly after Kinect's launch, DIY electronics specialists Adafruit Industries offered a bounty for the first open-source drivers. At first, Microsoft closed ranks and said it refused to condone the modification of its products, but later it rolled back and said that the USB interface had been left open by design. Either way, Kinect is now used widely for cheap 3D imaging.

3. Wi-Fi for location

Wi-Fi networks are traditionally built for communication, and they're good at it - the technology has proliferated around the world for that very reason. But they're also used by companies like Google, Navizon and Skyhook Wireless to locate you effectively in urban areas.

After years of struggling with GPS chips, it's now much quicker and easier to locate you from what networks you can see around you, and how strong the signal is. As an added bonus, it even works perfectly indoors. The only place you now need GPS is far from civilization.

4. The theremin as an instrument

Tech's unexpected new purpose
Leon Theremin and his invention

Here's a little-known-fact - the theremin wasn't originally intended to be a musical instrument at all. The spooky sounds it produces were the result of Russian research into proximity sensors in the 1920s, after the outbreak of the Russian civil war.

Its inventor, Léon Theremin, patented the device in 1928, then embarked on a grand tour of Europe playing his new creation to packed-out audiences. Eventually he found his way to the United States, where it became an instant hit.

5. Twitter in crisis situations

Among all the misspelt hashtags, rage and photos of what people are having for dinner, Twitter is really quite good at sharing information between large groups of people in emergencies. That's pretty far from its original goals as a status update tool, but it's been of tremendous utility following numerous natural disasters, political uprisings and other crisis situations. Most famously, the service been credited with the early organisation behind the 2010-2011 revolutions across the Middle East. Not bad for an app originally described as "a short burst of inconsequential information".

6. Minecraft in education

Tech's unexpected new purpose
Educational Minecraft mod qCraft

Swedish bedroom coder Notch knew he was onto a good thing when he created Minecraft, but he never imagined that his creation would be used by Google to teach quantum physics to the next generation of coders. That's the idea of qCraft, anyway, a mod for the game that introduces certain principles that are only possible at a quantum scale. It's not the only attempt to integrate Minecraft into education either - the team at have a whole stack of ways to bring the blocky sandbox game into schools.