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Tomorrow's kitchen: Virtual reality, robot chefs

The Electrolux Design Lab competition returns with a new crop of future-thinking concept devices, including the Bio Robot Refrigerator and Drum Washing Machine.

The Drum Washing Machine
The Drum Washing Machine, aimed for communal living situations, comprises an "extractable washing machine drum" that individuals would use as personal laundry baskets.
Andras Suto, via Electrolux

Every year, Electrolux holds a worldwide competition it calls the Design Lab, and every year the competition reveals some far-out designs. With the 2010 competition currently ongoing, Electrolux has announced the 25 semi-finalists, proving once again that there is no lack of imagination for what the future may hold. Judgment is based on "intuitive design, innovation, and consumer insight," and the current crop of semi-finalists were chosen for their designs that "offer the most interesting solutions for future living and best consider efficient use of domestic space."

Some highlights:

• The Kitchen Hideaway, designed by Daniel Dobrogorsky of Australia, consists of a virtual-reality headset that communicates with physical robotic chefs. Envisioned for use in multi-dwelling buildings, hungry participants would select a recipe from a database that would then be prepared in a communal "Food Factory." The robotic chefs would pass along the finished meal to be delivered directly to the user.

The Qumi cooking unit would be operated entirely by mobile device (click to enlarge). Ilia Vostrov, via Electrolux

• Yuriy Dmitriev of Russia dreamed up the Bio Robot Refrigerator, a food storage concept that replaces familiar shelves found in today's refrigerators with a biopolymer gel that would suspend food items wherever they happen to be placed. With food items visible at all times, users would simply reach in through the non-sticky, odorless gel and select what they wanted.

• The Qumi is a "flexible cooking unit" designed by Ilia Vostrov, also of Russia. The versatile induction cooker is egg-shaped and able to fry, steam, or heat ingredients in a manner similar to today's multicookers. However, unlike anything on the market today, the concept appliance has absolutely no control or display panel, and instead would be operated entirely by a mobile device.

• Induction cooking keeps growing in popularity, and Peter Alwin from India doesn't imagine the trend dying anytime soon. His entry, the Snail, utilizes "micro induction heating" as a portable cooking solution. The small size of the unit would allow it to be attached directly to pots and pans, cooking or heating the contents and thus reducing the space needed for conventional cooking.

• In the laundry room, several entries focused on communal living, including the Drum Washing Machine by Andras Suto. The Hungarian designer envisions an "extractable washing machine drum" that individuals would use as personal laundry baskets. When laundry day arrives, the tenant would simply insert the portable laundry drum into the communal machine.

The old saying is that science fiction often becomes science fact, and while some of these entries have a better chance of seeing production than others, they are all deserving for their considerations of the future. Be sure to check out all 25 of the semi-finalists in the Electrolux Design Lab.