This year's Design Lab competition from Electrolux has seen 1,300 entries from 17 countries flood in for consideration. The theme for 2010 is the "2nd Space Age" and the 25 semi-finalists have just been announced. Soon that number will be further reduced to just eight, who will then battle it out to try and win a wad of cash and the chance to work at one of the company's design centers. But before that happens, let's take a quick look at what's on offer.

The winner of last year's competition was named Cocoon, and was a cooker which actually grows the food it cooks. The 2010 competition is all about the kind of home appliances we'll be using after the dawn of the second space age, and is now in the semi-finals stage. Up for grabs is a EUR5,000 (about US$6,176) top prize and a paid internship at an Electrolux global design center, with cash prizes of EUR3,000 (about US$3,705) and EUR2,000 (about US$2,470) going to the runners up.

Designs from the 25 semi-finalists are now available for public consumption and in just a few weeks time will be whittled down to just eight. The remaining contenders will then be invited to present their creations before expert judges for a final showdown in London sometime in September. You can have a look at the designs from all 25 Design Lab 2010 semi-final entries, but before you do, here are a few to whet your appetite.

Australia's Berty Bhuruth has chosen to tackle the ever popular robotic vacuum cleaner design, but you probably won't have seen anything quite like Instinct before. Rather than the now-familiar disc-shaped cleaners which currently do their best to fight domestic grime, Bhuruth's creation walks on four legs. Able to adapt to its environment, Instinct creates a three dimensional roomscape before setting about its duties and then "chooses the path of less cleaning resistance" to scrub up "even the messiest of places."

The USA's Joshua Harris brings custom clothing to the home with a Print and Wear concept. Users stand in front of the device's camera and choose what garment(s) they would like to wear. The camera determines the perfect fit and then the device creates the required article of clothing using threads contained in replaceable cartridges within the In-Home printer. Harris sees design houses making their creations available for home printing, and should a user get tired of a new design or the clothing becomes damaged, it can be fed back into the machine for dismantling and re-use.

Russia's Yuriy Dmitriev's Bio Robot Fridge invokes equal measures of intrigue and wonder. It's said to take up only a quarter of the space than conventional models, but it's the way it preserves the food contained within that is sure to make for nourishing debate. Rather than shelves hidden behind a door, Dmitriev proposes pushing food items straight into a non-sticky, odorless biopolymer gel to the front of the fridge. The gel envelops any item left there and the fridge cools the "gel through luminescence." When you want to eat or drink your chilled item, you just stick your hand into the gel and grab what you need.

Some designs just suck. But in the case of the Snail by Peter Alwin from India, that's precisely what it's supposed to do. The Snail is a small portable cooking or heating device which sticks directly to the pot, pan or mug requiring heat. The object being heated is automatically detected and the heated coil adjusted appropriately. Power is provided by a "high density sugar crystal battery" and the process is monitored and controlled via a touch-sensitive interface.

Personally I find MESO from Romania's Bogdan Ionita both inspiring and more than a little scary. The Giger-esque MESO is a food supplement dispenser. Users who are feeling a bit peckish or perhaps need a nutritional pick-me-up, simply place an arm into the MESO's mouth and wham - the nutrients are injected straight into the bloodstream. There's even a portable version for those who are too busy to eat regular meals. Determining exactly what nourishment is needed by the victim - I mean user - is automatically undertaken by MESO after a blood sample analysis is performed.

Feel free to comment on which one you think will be the ultimate winner and why.

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