issue: September 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine
Far Out Concepts
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Some finalists in Electrolux’s 2009 Design Lab competition push the boundaries of believability.
As a serious gadget geek
I always look forward to seeing Electrolux’s Design Lab competition
finalists. Every year, the Swedish appliance maker puts out a global
invitation for undergraduate and graduate industrial design students to
come up with concepts for home appliances of the future. Every year,
the definition of “future” is tweaked in new ways, with different
In 2008 Electrolux called for design
students to conceptualize home appliances for the Internet
Generation—the brand-conscious, busy young professionals in the 25–35
age bracket. Design Lab 2008 finalists concepts included the Drawer
Kitchen for young professionals or students living in small flats. It
combined a kitchen table, fridge, cooktop, and dish drawer into an
appliance the size of a filing cabinet. Another 2008 concept was called
Sook, a wireless kitchen device that generates, displays, and shares
recipes, bringing social networking into the kitchen—an appliance that
makes perfect sense for hypertasking members of the iGeneration.
2009, as Electrolux celebrates its 90th birthday, it asked design
students to conceptualize home appliance ideas for the next 90 years.
The contest this year brought in 900 entries from 50 countries, and the
eight finalists were announced in late August.
a little disappointed with the results this time. There’s too much
dependence on technology that doesn’t exist and probably will not exist
within the next 90 years. Several of these concepts, unlike in 2008,
just aren’t doable.
Sci Fi Appliances
of the finalist concepts is called Cocoon, from Rickard Hederstierna, a
design student at Sweden’s Lund Institute of Technology. It is
described as actually growing genetically engineered and prepackaged
meat and fish dishes. That’s a startling concept. Is such a thing
predicted to be possible in the next century? If so, the environmental
impact could be staggering. But I don’t see it.
says the Teleport Fridge, designed by Dulyawat Wongnawa of
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, “…envisions a time when the
technologies found in science fiction become reality, specifically
teleportation.” But its seems unlikely that we’ll ever see fresh food
beamed from the grocery right to our refrigerators.
fanciful concept is the Water Catcher from Penghao Shan of the Zhejiang
Sci-tech University in China. This device sends small flying balls out
on excursions to collect rain, after which they return to the base
appliance to deliver the water for purifying. The lift for the
collectors, unless the designer is envisioning some sort of antigravity
technology, would have to come from some seriously large-diameter rotor
blades. I picture a flock of droids careening noisily around my
backyard airspace whenever it drizzles. And this all seems like way too
much work to collect rain. Since the water’s going to be purified
anyway, why not just put a rain barrel under the downspout?
Back to Earth
some of the concepts coming from this year’s Design Lab do seem
feasible and maybe even practical in the years to come. One of these is
the Renew washing appliance designed by Louis Filosa of Purdue
University in the United States. There’s a photo of the Renew in our
report on Laundry appliances in this issue.
Bifoliate is an appliance concept that addresses a real convenience
need. Consumers hate unloading the dishwasher, and I’ve often heard the
half-baked idea floating around that dishwashing functionality could be
built directly into kitchen cabinets. Toma Brundzaite of the Vilnius
Academy of Art in Lithuania designed a wall-mounted, two-compartment
appliance that does just that. Dishes are stored and washed in either
compartment. Take them out, use them, and put them back. After they’re
washed, they simply stay there until they are used again. This is not a
high-capacity appliance, but it would certainly appeal to the same
students or young professionals that might have bought the 2008 Drawer
Electrolux deliberately went in search of far-out ideas. It’s important
to remember that these designs are purely conceptual and that this
competition’s purpose is to encourage new ways of thinking about
Even if some of the 2009
finalists seem fantastical, they will also be inspirational to others
in this industry. And inspiration is never a bad thing.