When the Swedish appliance company Electrolux challenged students worldwide to submit futuristic designs for healthier homes, wild concepts poured in. Ideas included a clothes-drying drone, a closet that can weave a new wardrobe and computerized dishware that makes green beans taste like brownies.
“Creating healthier home environments for our consumers, whether they are products, accessories, services or consumables, is an important area we wish to pursue,” said Salla Salokangas, PR manager for Electrolux Global Marketing.
The annual Electrolux Design Lab competition started in 2003 as a way to inspire the company and the public. This year, students were asked for submissions related to culinary enjoyment, fabric care and air purification. The winner, announced in November, will receive more than $6,800 and a paid six-month internship at an Electrolux global design center.
The first stage of the 2014 competition narrowed the entries down to 100, then to 75, and recently 35 entrants became semifinalists. Here’s a selection of my favorite high-tech submissions so far:
Dryo is a laundry-drying drone concept from Joanna Guzik at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland. The battery-powered device would fly your clothes around outside to dry them. Built-in weather sensors would allow it to automatically move under a roof or tree if it started to rain. Although Dryo didn’t make it to the semifinals, I still think it could show up in a sci-fi movie.
Another entry that sparked the imagination, but didn’t progress to the semifinals, was Chang Yu Cheng’s 3D Jet-Weaving Garment closet, which recycles your wardrobe. Cheng, a student at the National Yunlin University of Science and Technology in Taiwan, proposed a device that could break down old clothing and use the material to automatically construct new clothes. Brazilian Electrolux expert Julio Bertola wondered if this could be extended to curtains, sheets and blankets.
Laser Cleaning Glove
One day you might find yourself saying, “Don’t worry about that stain — I’ll just zap it with my laser cleaning glove.” That’s the idea behind the Instant Cleaning Glove from Stefan Bogdan, an arts and design student at the West University of Timisoara in Romania. His design calls for a neoprene glove that uses nanotech, lasers, sponges and a little water to remove tough stains right away. Simple hand gestures activate presets, and a tiny LCD screen guides the user through the cleaning process. The glove is one of 35 semifinalists.
The tagline for Air Globe is “bringing sunny Miami to your rainy Monday.” This beautiful interactive globe would act like an atmospheric replicator, allowing the user to select a location on Earth and then experience the same temperature and humidity at home. The concept comes from Pei-Chih Deng, a graduate student at the National Taipei University of Technology in Taiwan. During Stage 2 of the competition, Air Globe received the number two People’s Choice vote. It’s one of the air purification category semifinalists.
The Set to Mimic entry is truly out-there. It calls for computerized dishware that connects wirelessly to brain patches, triggering memories of pleasurable food and drink no matter what you’re actually consuming from the special plate and glass. That means a child eating vegetables could experience a favorite dessert instead. The unique entry comes from Sorina Răsteanu, a student in product design at West University of Timisoara in Romania. The idea, which would use removable transparent gel patches, received the top People’s Choice vote during Stage 2 and is a current semifinalist.
The competition can become a portfolio cornerstone and has even helped launch careers. “Some of the previous winners of the competition have continued to work for Electrolux,” said Salokangas. Last year, the top prize went to Colombian student Adrian Perez Zapata for Mab, a device that would send tiny, flying robots out to clean your house and then recharge them.
While the emphasis is on imaginative, aesthetically pleasing design rather than real product development, I did enjoy engaging with the students’ futuristic visions. Perhaps in 10 years, robots really will be doing all the housework while we sip cold beverages from brain-connected glasses.
Images courtesy of Electrolux.