The CNET Appliances team gets to test all sorts of household items with advanced functionality, but it sure is fun to imagine what smart home appliances might look like in the more distant future. That's why I like the Electrolux Design Lab competition. This annual event allows design students from all over the world to showcase household concepts that stray pretty far from the norm.
The themes change from year to year, but home appliances are always a major focal point. The 2013 theme was "Inspired Urban Living" and students were asked to offer up designs in any of the following three categories: social cooking, natural air, and effortless cleaning. The winners -- tiny robots that fly around and clean your house, a 3D food printer that makes mealtime an interactive experience for the whole family, and a dynamic built-in air filter that can pulse, change colors, and emit fragrances -- were announced last week.
First place: MabMab is a comprehensive home cleaning system that reminds me of a hive of insects. The Mab hub houses hundreds of tiny flying bots that, when ordered, scan your house for cleanliness and attack and destroy any dust, dirt, or grime with single drops of water. And when they're done, they return to the hub to recharge. It's a neat idea by Adrian Perez Zapata, but I wonder about collisions between robots and, well, humans.
Second place: AtomiumAtomium is a 3D food printer by Luiza Silva. No, that isn't a new idea, but this 3D food printer will scan a drawing of something specific and build a snack in that very shape. The Atomium video shows a youngster with a drawing of a car. Atomium then scans the picture and creates an edible, car-shaped snack. It also says it uses molecular ingredients to suit specific dietary needs. Fancy a meal shaped like a pair of sunglasses? Get to drawing.
Third place: Breathing WallBreathing Wall is an air filter that's actually integrated into your wall. It pulses as it cleans and it can also change colors and release different scents. That way it simultaneously improves your air quality and promotes relaxation. Jeabyun Yeon's design does seem to be a bit in your face, though. How calming would it really be to come home to an undulating, color-changing air freshener after a long day at work? Hard to say, I guess I'd have to review one to be sure.
So what do you think? Are any of these concepts things you'd like to see in your home or are you still getting used to