Smart, and on the Move

Portable Spot Cleaner, designed by Adrian Mankovecky, Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Bratislava, Slovakia

If the Electrolux Design Lab competition were given charge of the future of our home appliances, all our gadgets would be monochrome, have oversize back-lit interfaces, and be either rounded or flexible. Since its inception in 2003, the competition has been asking industrial design students to imagine the future of home appliances, offering 5,000 Euros and a six-month stint at an Electrolux design center to the winner.  Each year’s theme is different, but the finalists always have a remarkable family resemblance. And they always manage to work past the fact that domestic appliances are energy guzzlers by suggesting some as-yet-unproven battery technology – sugar crystal batteries are a hot favorite this year, perhaps because they were specified in last year’s winning entry.

Even if you ignore the issue of the energy source, not all the finalists quite fit the brief. Canadian student Kent Madden’s Bagel Toaster is quite a smart concept—your bagel is rotated under a heating strip. But the device still needs to sit on a table top, and it doesn’t look like something you’d carry around. And while the Sous-vide Cell Cooker certainly redefines cooking—your food cooks at 140°F for 72 hours to retain nutrients—it only moves the process from your countertop to your wall. And at least one of the finalists is a little too mobile—the Smoobo blender is cute, but I’m not sure I want to bounce a ball full of fruit and yogurt around the next time I want a smoothie.

EDL2011-Smoobo-Mixer-3-lowres-1024x716Smoobo Blender, designed by Roseanne de Bruin, Massey University, New Zealand

If I had to pick a frontrunner, it would have to be the Ribbon, designed by Enzo Kocak from Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. For one, its operating instructions are idiot proof—black side heats; white side cools. And of all the energy sources the finalists picked, the thermo-electric cells that Kocak chose seem to be the closest to reality. Plus, an energy source that converts heat to electricity seems a natural fit for the product.

EDL2011-Ribbon-1-lowres-1024x716The Ribbon, designed by Enzo Kocak, Monash University, Australia.

The eight finalists will each present their concept at the Business Design Centre, London on September 7. In addition to the cash prize and employment opportunity for the winner, two runners-up will also receive prizes of 3,000 and 2,000 Euros.

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