The Mother Load
“Ten years ago strollers were very backward compared to bicycles,” says Dutch designer and Eindhoven grad Max Barenbrug, who launched Bugaboo in 1997. This September the company released the highly versatile Cameleon, which incorporates the suggestions of parent users. Another design-pedigreed stroller will make an appearance this spring, when a Bay Area-based team comprised of former IDEO designers Joseph Hei and Bryan White introduce their first offering, Orbit. Like that of Bugaboo, their stroller system is based on user research, but its primary feature is as an engineered car-seat adapter.
Both companies have managed to redefine a product class sorely in need of innovation. However, the two products look and function quite differently, with features that target two different kinds of users. Orbit addresses the needs of parents who travel daily by car. “Our mission was to improve transportation for families and children in general because we feel it is all part of one problem,” White says. On the other hand, Cameleon is designed for a variety of uses and is for parents who travel short distances by foot, rely on mass transportation, and use the stroller for recreational outings.
The Orbit and Cameleon systems—each of which costs more than $800—share some real innovations: improved functionality, versatility, easy-to-follow installation and safety instructions, lightweight and durable materials, and the possibility for the products to be useful through various stages of childhood.
The proprietary lining meets fireproofing regulations without the use of toxic chemicals. It detaches easily and is machine washable.
The flexible handle attaches to the car seat at four points, providing added stability and making it easier to throw over a forearm than the traditional hard handle.
Made of aerospace-grade aluminum, the telescoping handles accommodate people of all heights. They feature grips that are angled to allow hands to rest naturally on them.
The stroller’s patent-pending smart hub is the same as the one on the chassis that installs in the car, so the carrier can be transferred quickly and safely.
When parking a stroller, most parents need to gather the belongings they’ve stashed in it, such as snacks or shop-ping bags. The removable tote eliminates the need to transfer these items to another bag.
Cushy air-suspension tires (not shown on this prototype) will improve traction and allow for a smooth ride.
For the car
The sturdy aluminum chassis that mounts into the back-seat of a car has a tension mechanism that secures the device into place. The user knows it is properly installed when it clicks.
“With a lot of strollers you end up pushing it into the ground to fold it, and then you have to bend over and pick it up,” White says. The Orbit folds in one motion: you reach down, grab the twist grip, and the stroller collapses in two directions as you lift up, making it easier to maneuver into a car trunk.
After removing the seat, you fold down the handle and lift the middle bar; the little wheels then fold into the big ones. Although collapsing the stroller is not difficult, it would be too cumbersome to do, say, when catching a cab or boarding a bus.
For fast walking, the five-point harness secures the child in the seat. The fleece lining is water-repellent and can be washed.
Each of the stroller’s functions—reclining, reversing, removing the seat, and collapsing the frame—hinge around this point, eliminating hard-to-reach mechanisms.
For the Car
The Cameleon seat can be removed from the stroller base and replaced with a car-seat adapter, which allows a traditional car seat to attach to it.
The folding top adjusts to three positions to protect the child from the sun’s glare.
The dual-position steering handle toggles so that either set of wheels can be in front. It also adapts to the height of different users.
The brake prevents the stroller from rolling down inclines.
For recreational activities, such as a stroll through the woods, the big tires go in front to provide better traction.
Adjustable shock absorbers in the small wheels improve city navigation by reducing the impact of potholes.