The Slightly Bizarre Fantasies of the 2015 Electrolux Design Lab Challenge

Reality takes a back seat to designers' imaginings in the 2015 Electrolux Challenge

4 min read
The Slightly Bizarre Fantasies of the 2015 Electrolux Design Lab Challenge
Illustration: Electrolux Design Lab

Every year, Electrolux asks design students to stretch their already alarmingly flexible imaginations and develop concepts around a theme that's intended to “raise questions about what design will be like in the future.” This year's theme is “Healthy Happy Kids.” And as per usual, the concepts the students dreamed up are mostly (or entirely) unconstrained by things that are often inconvenient to designers, like the laws of physics. Let's take a look at the top six finalists to see how reality will inevitably fail to live up to the future of design.

VORIS: A robot that teaches kids the importance of taking care of their clothes
By Martha Fabiola García Bustos

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

This robot will playfully encourage kids to stuff dirty clothes into slots on its back. Then it will suck the clothes in, sterilize them with UV light, freshen them up, and somehow fold them neatly and spit them out for the kid to put away while roaring in a "funny and cute" way. We certainly do have laundry robots that can fold clothes, but good luck stuffing one inside this concept.

Future Classroom: An interactive and self-sustaining kitchen for educational use
By Tobias Tsamisis

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

We’re not sure whether having a kitchen as the “central element” of future classrooms is necessarily the best idea. But the idea of having an “integrated aquaponic system” that produces food right next to where you prepare it is kinda cool. It’s designed to teach kids between the ages of 6 and 11 about biology and healthy food—although when I was that age, I would have had a fit if my pet fish got cooked right in front of me, even in the name of science.

Air Shield: A baby stroller that creates a pure and clean microclimate
By Dominykas Budinas

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

This one might stand out as a good idea that could actually work: a baby stroller with an integrated air purification system for places where the air can be a serious health hazard. While the cabin is sealed, a microphone and speakers can still keep you in constant communication with your infant. It protects them from UV, too. Some days, I wouldn't mind something like this for myself, and I'm an adult, more or less.

Plato: The robot toy that helps you take care of your child
By Mary Pilyugina

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

Based on the five platonic solids, Plato is a set of five different robots: Octa, a robotic video baby monitor that moves around the room on cables and glows in the dark (nothing creepy about that); Docon, an inflatable rolling tactile toy; Cuon, a robot guard that will follow your kid around for you; Tetra, a kitchen utensil sterilizer; and Ico, a transforming cradle bath. It's certainly a novel design idea, and according to the designer, “Platonic solids emphasize the plasticity of the human body,” so there's that, too.

Bloom: Bridges the gap between digital and practical education by encouraging good kitchen habits in a fun way
By Jordan Lee Martin

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

I like this idea. It's a kettle that recycles any leftover steam and hot water through three chambers to do dishes, cook vegetables, and water plants. I'm not sure that it will really help “the whole family to come together where parents can join their children in building new skills [and] creating memories,” but there aren't any technical reasons why making something like this would be impossible.

Quadruple H: An air purifier and hula hoop in one
By Jeongbin Seo

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

Finally, hula hoops do something useful: inside the hollow hoop is an air purification system, so that whenever you're hula-ing, you're saving the world at the same time. The hoop also monitors you while you exercise and provides feedback on your technique and progress. And it makes holograms, because holograms are awesome.

The winner, announced yesterday, is Bloom:

Designer Jordan Lee Martin wins €10,000 and a six-month paid internship at Electrolux. We wish we could say that being the winning entry also means that Bloom will be produced for real, but even Electrolux doesn't know how to make that actually happen.

The people's choice award went to Weaver, by Larissa Trindade, a tool that can instantly repair your favorite clothes:

imgIllustration: Electrolux Design Lab

I'd explain how it's supposed to work, but I can't possibly top the designer's description:

"Through a photo of the fabric, the user highlights the damage area, where the app analyzes its properties: fiber or color, sending the information to the smart tool. The fabric recognition is based on scanner technologies by smart devices cameras. Additionally, the repairing process lays on the way spiders make webs and in the bio-culture “grow clothes”, which “vegetable leather” grows using green tea, sugar and bacteria. Weaver would also use nanorobots to copy and reproduce the fabric properties. On the other half, the colour process happens, liberating pigments on the fabric. The textile repair half is recharged with a cartridge made of biodegradable material, similar to the laundry detergent pod, with a regenerator enzymatic liquid inside."

Yup, I'm sold.

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