Electrolux Design Lab 2015 semi-finalists announced

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The theme for the 2015 Electrolux Design Lab competition is "Healthy Happy Kids"(Credit: David Jurik/Electrolux)

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Every year since 2003, the Electrolux Design Lab competition has challenged budding stylists and inventors to produce home appliance concepts that may emerge in the not-too-distant future. Each year has a theme. Last year it was "Creating Healthy Homes" and this year the brief is to conceive devices that cater for "Healthy Happy Kids." With the competition now down to just 35 semi-finalists, we take a look at six of the standouts.

To give an idea of the sort of levels of creativity and invention found in the contest, look no further than last year’s winner, Pan Wang, with his concept Future Hunter-Gatherer. A design that gamifies the process of shopping by selecting and automatically purchasing food "caught" by the family in a holographically-projected game, Wang’s idea brings in family connectivity, insight into where food really comes from, and a nod to our inner hunter-gatherer to make the process of eating a much more engaging experience than simply sitting down to a pre-prepared meal.

So are the ideas on display this year just as inventive? Let's take a look at two concepts from each of the three areas of competition – cooking, air purification, and fabric care – to see if they embody the elements of originality and innovation the judges have seen in previous winners.

Cooking

Bioprinter

Dubbed a "3D food printer that promotes a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle and creative thinking", Constanza Fredericksen Neira's cooking concept aims to make eating a fun activity for children that builds creativity, and allows them to have an input to their own nutritional needs.

According to the designer, Bioprinter would use (as yet undefined) technology to process raw ingredients, remove the inedible parts and any toxins found in them, and transform these cast-offs into biofuel to power the printer itself. The device also envisions control via the thoughts of the child using some kind of brain-machine interface, which goves a new meaning to "playing with your food."

It goes without saying, Bioprinter's is still very much aspirational at the moment, but is greatly inspired by the designer's desire to create ideas and products that reflect her vision of a greener future.

"From my point of view, I am inclined to believe in the theories that talk about green inclusive societies, where man is a conscious person that is interconnected with other people and with the environment," said Neira in her Electrolux blog."And at same time he knows that technology and technological products can help favorably to this cause."

Link

Known simply as "Herman", the designer of Link professes to an interest in cooking and nutrition as a whole-of-body engagement. In this way, his design aims to show the state of various functions and levels within a child's body to ensure that a parent can meet their hydration and nutrition needs in a timely manner.

Designed to incorporate a holographic projector for the user interface, the Link device is proposed to be worn on the wrist and use remote monitoring of all vital signs and primary organs. Given all of this information, the designer believes that an automated tailored diet can also be prescribed via Link to ensure optimum absorption of nutrition and overall body health are maintained.

Of course Link is also envisaged to be controllable and accessible by smartphone and other devices, where Herman believes that parents and their children will be able to turn the idea of healthy eating into a game that makes the users want to participate.

If Link is to move to the next stage of the assessment program, its designer needs to prove to the judges that it has what it takes in terms of practicality, appeal, and applicability. Given the praise of at least one judge, Herman should at least be hopeful of achieving that.

"Convincing idea and a look into the future combining innovative health technology with appeal and meaning," said Thomas Johansson from Electrolux Design, Global. "I like the idea that the wellness of the kid turns into a game where also the parents need to have 100% of their health!"

Air Purification

Floud

A chair, an air purifier, and an odor remover, Floud is a multipurpose domestic appliance replete with UV lights, an air ionizer, and a dust bag to capture detritus sucked from the air.

Designed by David Jurik, Floud is also aimed to provide entertainment for children – and probably adults too – as it is designed to be buoyant enough to float around the room. With the resilience and malleability of a large, soft pillow, when captured Floud can supposedly be used as a chair, a stool, even an exercise device.

"Dust, mites, bacteria and other microorganisms penetrate our body and destroy our health and the health of our children," said David Jurik in explaining his motivation. "Therefore, I decided to create a healthy future seat that cleans the air in our homes."

Air Shield

Parents with babies who live in cities are the target for this design. Air Shield is aimed to provide a micro-habitat in which a baby is contained and pushed along with in a stroller. The designer, Dominykas Budinas, sees the Air Shield as an all-round device for protecting babies form polluted air using on-board filtering, as well as being superior protection from UV rays and a sound barrier to ensure sound sleep while perambulating about town.

The baby isn't cut off completely from its parents, however, the design also aims to contain a microphone to catch baby's cries and a speaker to alert the parents to them.

"This is a concept that would be extremely well received in many countries and cities with a lot of air pollution," said judge and Electrolux designer, Martin Alexandersson. "It really delivers to the core parental feeling of protecting your children in an urban environment where the air is getting worse every year."

Fabric Care

ButtonLab

Combining a built-in microscope and analytical laboratory, Dominik Uhlíř's ButtonLab is a design that aims to take the guesswork out of stain removal in the laundry.

Aimed to be fully-integrated system that monitors everything from the type and severity of a stain or odor on clothing and fabrics, the ButtonLab also aspires to monitor water usage and a range of other parameters to maximize washing and cleaning efficiencies.

With a magnetic base, and small enough to be carried in a pocket, the ButtonLab concept is also designed to use wireless technology to connect to a smartphone or other device to provide more information than you could ever possibly use on the conditions of things in the laundry.

According to Uhlíř, the ButtonLab will allow children to be involved in laundry tasks and turn the mundane chores of washing become a fun and informative activity.

"Smart innovative accessory for fabric care that is seamlessly integrated into the daily lives of users." said Thomas Johansson from Electrolux Design, Global.

Weaver

Like an automated spider weaving an artificial web, Weaver is designed to repair clothes and other textiles by analyzing the material inserted into it, then replicating that material from its storehouse of chemicals and seamlessly rebuilding the damaged area.

"The high consumption and waste of the textile industry is a huge problem," said Weaver's designer, Larissa Trindade. "The Weaver concept could help future families to engage in sustainable habits towards clothing care, and in addition teach their kids the real value of things, not treating them like easily disposable matter."

Trindade believes that technology can be developed that would see Weaver be able to mimic almost any fabric and repair it. Her idea is that the unit would be constructed in two halves and – with the fabric or material laid in the center – brought together to start the process. Standard with wireless, smartphone (or other device) control, the Weaver would be programmable and changeable on the user's command.

Weaver aspires to ecological, sustainable, and practical care and repair of fabrics and clothing and a reduction in the idea of a throw-away society.

Next stages

This year, Electrolux has doubled the prize money on offer from 2014 so that 1st prize is now €10,000 (US$11,200) plus a 6 months paid internship at an Electrolux Global Design Center, 2nd prize is €6,000, and 3rd prize comes in at €4,000. The People’s Choice prize (decided by a tally of online voters) remains the same at €2,000.

The next stage of the competition, where finalists will be judged on concept development, will see six entries chosen by Electrolux experts to move on to the final round. These six finalists will be revealed September 15th.

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