The annual Electrolux Design Lab competition for 2014 has reached stage three of the judging, and 35 semi-finalists remain. Many of the entries are innovative, some are quirky, and others are downright strange. But in the spirit of originality, they are all very individual, unique takes on various types of household devices that we may be using in the not-too-distant future. We have a look at ten of the entries that caught our eye to give you an idea of the competition so far.
In no particular order, the following concepts represent a range of devices offering various solutions to address this year's theme of "Create the future of healthy homes" in areas such as pet care, clean air, cooking, environmental control, recycling, and personal hygiene.
The U-Bubble intends to float plastic bubbles through the air, which then descend to you to deliver food. The idea uses magnetic force to suspend the bubbles and move them along via electromagnets embedded in the ceiling. And, of course, you control these bubbles using a smartphone app to direct them where you want.
The designer also claims the ceiling will double as a wireless charger, powering the U-Bubbles as they rest on the ceiling waiting for commands. And, if the power should suddenly fail, the inventor asserts that the U-Bubbles will automatically attach themselves to the ceiling until the power is restored.
U-Bubble's designer says that the smartphone app will also enable other U-Bubble users to interact with others about what they’ve eaten for the day, discuss recipes, swap tips and participate in all the other equally exciting aspects slated for a future interactive U-Bubble user community.
If you want a beverage to go with your U-Bubble-delivered meal, then the Yura concept could fit the bill. It's a self-recharging flying robot waiter that can ferry glasses of alcohol or other beverages directly into your hand. Yura’s designer, Herman Haydin, says that Yura would serve up cocktails by voice commands, from one of its inbuilt displays, or – of course – via your smartphone.
Haydin also claims that Yura has its own computer "brain" with configurable power settings, navigation maps, and voice command capabilities. Yura will similarly be designed to provide Wi-Fi, and even access to email – which could well prove useful when inviting others to join you in a flying-robot-supplied tipple or two.
As well as controlling the temperature of the cocktail stored inside its refrigerated innards, Yura is also set to determine and display the number of calories, carbohydrates, fats and proteins contained within the drink it is about to serve you.
And with a planned ultra-quiet rotor system "…like modern military helicopters," when Yura brings you aspirin for your hangover the following morning, you’ll be relieved to know that you'll hardly hear it at all.
The designer of Zero waste, Karolin Kõrge, premises her design on the idea that as most people tend to get rid of clothing well before its use by date, then – in the interests of conservation – why not recycle and re-tailor that clothing instead?
Zero waste promises to allow users to make new clothes by using old clothes as the raw material to print new ones via a user interface that assists in both choosing the new outfit and trying it on using a virtual reflection of the body.
The concept intends to use 3D printing to produce the new garments based on the results of an inbuilt body scanner designed to assess both the user’s body measurements and to provide the "virtual wardrobe" with a model created from those body measurements to demonstrate proposed garment designs.
It is not made clear how the process takes a used garment and produces a final product, nor is there any mention of the possible technology involved, but – if the provided illustrations are anything to go by – it certainly is a fashionable proposal.
Petollar is designed to be a multi-function, mobile robotic device that helps you manage your indoor pets. Guided by a transmitter attached to your pet's collar, the Petollar follows the pet around so it's ready to clean up any "accidents," while also monitoring its health and whether it requires feeding.
Of course, it also has a smartphone app planned for it. The app allows you to control the Petollar or be alerted should anything untoward happen to your animal whilst you are away from the house.
It is even being designed to let you dial up via your smartphone and make soothing noises to your cat or dog should they be too lonely. And, just when you thought that you couldn't fit anything else into a pet-minding, health-monitoring, mess-cleaning robot, the creator of Petollar, Thanut Chaovakul, also plans to equip it with an automatic air freshener to help make sure that your house smells nice too.
According to its creator, Berthome Tiphaine, Ephemeris is premised on the idea of taking an automated approach to personal relaxation. Designed to use a smartphone to collect physiological data (in a way not specified) from the user, Ephemeris will gauge the types of smells that may soothe or enhance their current mood.
The device then exudes liquid versions of these aromas that run down nanofilaments hanging from the ceiling in a jellyfish-like arrangement. The user then walks through to experience this electronically-produced aromatherapy. The creator claims that this will produce a virtual "sanctuary" that produces a feeling of happiness which supposedly contributes to a purification of the soul and the body. Ephemeris is also claimed to be designed not to "disturb daily activities." Which is possible, one supposes, if walking through a cloying, perfumed, tentacled, nanofilament device every day is an activity that is not considered disturbing.
LIO appears to be an air filtration and purification system with a gigantic interactive information and input screen for those who like their display technology to take up entire walls. An acronym for "Living Input / Output," LIO is intended to purify outside air by passing it through a spongy material impregnated with "purifying microbes" that LIO’s creator, Alessya Ivanova, asserts will capture fine dust, bad bacteria and pollen.
Intended to relieve asthma and allergy sufferers from the problems associated with airborne particulates, LIO is also designed to obey voice-activated commands as well as provide information about the condition of the air in your home, such as temperature, humidity, and pollution levels.
No description is given for the "purifying microbes" designed to live in the filter material, or how they may be maintained, fed, or replenished. But, regardless of how it is supposed to work, LIO has a large, reassuring video screen to tell you that everything is ok.
Luna is a design that wants to turn your laundry basket (or any other receptacle for that matter) into a washing machine. According to its designer, Juan Camilo Restrepo Vilamizar, instead of going to all of the trouble of moving your dirty clothes from the hamper to the machine, you simply throw Luna – a spherical automated washing device – into your clothes hamper and it rolls around cleaning them.
Apparently Luna is designed to use "electrostatic steam" generated from within it to wet the clothes and then use vibrations and pulses to dislodge the dirt, sucking it all up and vaporizing the water in the process. After all this magic is finished and your clothes are cleaned, Luna is then emptied as simply as one would empty a vacuum cleaner. It goes without saying that there is a smartphone app to control it and to let you know when Luna has finished its task.
PETE is a design that envisions turning PET plastic bottles into woven clothing on demand. Looking much like a wall-mounted hand towel dispenser, PETE is designed to be able to consume plastic PET bottles and then choose to produce clothes of a particular size, weave and color simply by selecting from options on a user interface on the front of the machine.
PETE is designed by its inventor, Kovács Apor, to resemble a household appliance that could be mounted, say, on a bathroom wall. He also envisioned its housing being made of Corian or a similar type of material, so that it wouldn’t look out of place next to other appliances anywhere in the house.
Borne from the notion that, as more than 7.5 million PET bottles end up in the trash around the world every day and that recycling is an arduous process that requires shipping PET bottles across the globe for processing into clothing, PETE’s creator believed that it would be far more environmentally sensible to do it in one compact unit, on site.
If this product comes to fruition, we may well be able to enjoy a few cool drinks one day, and then turn the containers into a t-shirt to wear to the beach the next.
Surphase is a design for a foldable, portable combination cook-top and refrigerator. Envisioned as a flexible surface that, when laid flat, can heat three medium saucepans side by side, Surphase can also be folded in half to create an oven. Daan Hekking, the designer of Surphase, also foresees the flip side being a refrigerator surface; combine two Surphases and you create a portable refrigerator.
Though the technology at work behind this device is not described, the proposal also states that Surphase is a battery-powered device. The creator believes that upcoming graphene-based, ultra-thin batteries would probably be used. Given that an electric cooker uses in the region of several thousand watts of electricity just to boil a pot of water, however, ultra-thin battery technology with that sort of capacity may be some way off yet.
Set to Mimic
Imagine if a bowl of plain steamed rice could be made to taste like the most amazing gourmet meal that you ever had, or vegetables had the taste and texture of the finest chocolate. You could dine like a gourmet every night of the week and children would always finish their vegetables. At least, that is, if designer Sorina Răsteanu has her way and we all have a microchip head patch stuck to our heads.
You see, Sorina’s household appliance concept is a programmable brain-stimulating device that you use to select tastes and aromas to replace the real flavors and smells of the food that you are eating.
According to the concept’s creator, Set to Mimic will be able to bookmark mental experiences, smell and taste and then feed them back into your brain on demand. Alternatively, users could download a sensory experience from an online database. Then, it is asserted, you would be able to browse the internet for a picture of the food selected, and Set to Mimic then digitally overlays that picture on the food or drink you are consuming to complete the illusion.
Patches that attach directly to the head are envisioned as the way to influence brain waves with the Set to Mimic device, though this would rely on as yet undeveloped technology.
Next stop: FinalistsThe Electrolux Design Lab competition aims to focus on many criteria when evaluating a design, but specifically states that the proposed concept must be innovative, intuitive, consumer-focused, aesthetically pleasing, and – in keeping with the heritage of Electrolux's Scandinavian design precepts – be sensitive to the environment and easy to use.
We've only highlighted 10 of the semi-finalists, with the Electrolux experts to begin working to cull all 35 down to just six finalists in August. These will be announced in October, before the ultimate winner and People's Choice Award winner of the competition are revealed in November. First prize in the competition will be €5,000 (US$6,800) plus a six months paid internship at an Electrolux global design center.