In May of this year, Fujitsu called on the imagination of the public to help the company come up with some mobile designs for the future. Offering budding designers the choice of being realistically practical or wildly imaginative, the company received around 2000 entries over the Summer and has just announced the winners at the CEATEC technology trade show in Japan.
The winner of the Grand Prize came from the "sensible" category in the form of Gesture by Jin-gwon GO, a concept where different functions are controlled by user hand gestures, and one not too far away from our current perception of mobile phone design. The young designer pockets a handsome 2 million Yen for his effort (around USD$22,000).
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There were two runner-up prizes, one from the practical category and one from the futuristic dream group. A washable device aimed at kids named Soap took the former slot, banking 500,000 Yen for designer YAN (around USD$5,600). A similarly-sized booty was awarded to the Fold-A-Phone by Hanna Sahlen and Sachiko Munakata. This design is described as a "paper-thin handset that can be folded into a compact shape and unfolded for use as a phone" and as you can see from the Gallery, that's how it appears to have started out in life. Thankfully the concept rendering on show at CEATEC looks much better.
Each of the judges then chose a special award. Product designer Toshiyuki Kita chose Adjustick by Izumi Tanaka which projects a screen and keyboard from a pen-like main body. Art director Manabu Mizuno was impressed by the Sliced-up Phone design by Kan Yasuma, Yo Ishigaki and Yoshihisa Tanaka. The phone will work well on its own but really comes into its own when placed with others. Users can share battery charge or make a mini video wall arrangement and have the devices collaborate to display one big image. Cool.
The color-changing properties of the Chamelaphone by Hiroyuki Tabuchi impressed Kazuya Shimokawa, chief editor of Nikkei Design Magazine. This concept would see the "mobile phone's body can mimic and take on the texture of the surface that it is placed on." Leaving rectangular brick behind, Yuji Ito managed to stand out from the crowd with the disc-shaped F-Circle and caught the eye of Katsumi Asaba, chairman of the Japan Design Association (which partnered with Fujitsu for the competition).
Wataru Igarashi's Kaora or Tile design also steps away from convention to offer users a more rounded interface experience, taking Corporate senior vice president of Fujitsu Limited, Hideyuki Saso's award. Fujitsu's President, Kimitaka Kato seems to have saved the best for last. When touched, the small blob in the center of the clear soap-dish-like shape expands into various user interfaces. The positively gorgeous Amoeba Phone is the brainchild of Kwak yeon.
Each of the Special Award winners received 100,000 Yen (about USD$1,100).
Not only will it be interesting to see if any of the winning designs ever make it beyond the concept stage but also whether tapping into the collective imagination of the buying public like this will yield any real world innovations. Each of the designs is featured in our Gallery and more information on the competition can be found at the Award website.