When it opened for entries in February of this year, the Electrolux Design Lab competition challenged students from around the world to come up with innovative appliance concepts for the homes of the future. "Creating Healthy Homes" was the theme and after previously announcing the 35 semi-finalists, the organizers have now whittled over 1,700 entrants down to six finalists, who will look to wow a jury with their designs in France next month.
To paint a picture of what it takes to win the coveted design competition, Colombia's Adrian Perez Zapata topped the 2013 submissions with his Mab concept, a swarm of micro-drones that zip around the home cleaning up unkempt surfaces. The technology isn't there yet, but it is such forward-thinking solutions that are needed to capture the judges' imaginations.
The 2014 competition is split into three categories.
Polish designer Michał Pośpiech says his concept was inspired by Chinese lanterns that float through the air. We wonder if the toxic air pollution that plagues many Chinese cities also played a part in the design of these jellyfish-like air purifiers. Equipped with photovoltaic solar panel wings and exchangeable filters, the UrbanCone is a radio-controlled device aimed at providing purifying the air, both indoors and out.
Lotus consists of one central unit and three rechargeable balls that function as mobile air purification devices. The system can be controlled by smart devices and, while the main unit provides general purification, the three balls have specific tasks and are named Pure Ball, Odor Ball and Humid Ball.
Using Super Plasma Ion technology, a feature of Samsung's air purifiers, the system produces active hydrogen and oxygen ions said to kill off biological contaminants and active oxygen. Designer Fulden Dehneli of Turkey says the portable unit could prove handy wherever clean air is desired, from cooking to sleeping to cleaning out mothballed closets.
Set To Mimic concept
Perhaps the most mouthwatering concept of all, Set To Mimic involves a transparent gel patch that wirelessly receives signals from the companion plate and which, when placed on your head, communicates with your brain to evoke memories of your favorite tastes and smells. Having trouble getting those brussel sprouts down the hatch? Why not trick your brain into thinking its a triple-choc fudge sundae instead?
Romanian designer Sorina Răsteanu came up with the idea for Set To Mimic while undergoing a self-imposed, year-long ban on soda. As she stared into her glass of plain old water, the craving for Coke became too much and she started to explore the concept more seriously. She says Set To Mimic could help to reduce obesity by eliminating peoples' cravings for junk food. It could also help diabetics and those with food allergies enjoy foods they can't otherwise eat.
Future Hunter Gatherer concept
There's a lot said these days about a disconnect between the food on our plate and our awareness of where it's actually coming from. The Future Hunter Gatherer concept from UK designer Pan Wang looks to bridge this gap by gamifying family meal time.
The circular device provides a virtual shopping experience, with the user selecting the type of meal and a hologram of the meal's ingredients then projected into the room with which family members can interact, collecting virtual fish, for example. As the foods are collected in the game, data is sent to the local grocery store or market which then delivers the gathered items to the door.
Fashionistas among the Gizmag audience might not agree, but I don't mind the odd polyester shirt because it means I can leave the iron in the closet where it belongs. But for Hungarian designer Kovács Apor, polyester garments could do more than offer wrinkle-free clothing.
Feed discarded plastic bottles into his wall-mounted Pete machine, select a garment type and it converts the bottles into polyester garments. He says this provides a natural recycling method and can turn any consumer into a cutting edge eco-designer.
Pure Towel concept
If you're living in a family household, hand and body towels tend to get a fair old workout. But the Pure Towel concept from Mexican designer Leobardo Armenta promises to clean your towel while its hanging there, reducing energy costs and time spent washing piles of dirty laundry.
The device forms a ring around the hanging towel, which then casts an ultra-violet light and a high speed fan onto the fabric as it runs up and down its length. This process takes all of around 10 seconds and will help to reduce the spread of allergens and fungi throughout the home.
"The finalists’ concepts are truly innovative and offer new ideas on how we might be living our lives in the future, whether it’s eating healthier or being more sustainable,” says Lars Erikson, head of Electrolux Design and the Design Lab jury.
Alongside Erikson on the judging panel will be creative adviser at H&M, Margareta van den Bosch and Robin Edman from the Swedish Industrial Design Foundation. Up for grabs in the 2014 competition is €5,000 (around US$6,300) and a paid internship at the Electrolux global design center. Second and third places pay €3,000 (US$3,800) and €2,000 (US$2,500), respectively, while the People's Choice award, determined by online voters, carries a cash prize of €2,000 ($1,300). The presentation and award ceremony will take place in Paris on November 12.
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