Which technologies will be the "next big thing" when it comes to smart, urban living? The recently announced 20 semifinalists for the Electrolux Design Lab's 2013 competition, focus on the following three areas:
• Social cooking: "How can design overcome problems with shortage of entertaining space and preparation time, whilst allowing us to live a healthier lifestyle?"
• Natural air: "What design solution could be created to ensure we have the best quality air within the home, whilst also supporting aesthetic values?"
• Effortless cleaning: "What new adaptable offerings can be designed for compact, streamlined and easy cleaning solutions within urban cities of the future?"
A few of our favorites include the following projects.
Kitchen Hub, by Italian designer Francisco Barboza:
A "digital pinboard" for the kitchen that would let home-cooks monitor the contents of their refrigerators and pantries (and the expiration dates of those contents), customizing recipes to take advantage of foods that need to be cooked soon, before going bad. The idea is to minimize food waste while making shopping and cooking easier at the same time.
Mab, by Colombian designer Adrian Perez Zapata:
"An automated cleaning system" that includes 908 mini robots, deployed to clean an apartment. (This one's on the more whimsical side, but a boy can dream.) The robots would capture dirt and bring it back to their "core" (a hive for this bee-like platoon of robo-fairies), where the muck would get filtered. "With this self-contained cleaning solution the user can escape the everyday chores to experience a little bit of magic and utopia," writes the designer.
SEAbreeze by Hungarian designer Fanni Csernátony:
An air quality control system to bring sea air, and its restorative effects, anywhere in the world. "The service includes bottled salty water from the sea that is evaporated and desalinated by the device," writes the designer. The system includes a humidifier to evaporate seawater, a dehumidifier to balance out the air, and an air monitoring system that sends data to your smartphone.
Many of the ideas are the kind of big-think concepts that may never result in a product, but rather, provide imaginative takes on problem-solving. Eight finalists will be announced mid-September. The stakes are high: The winner will receive a €5,000 and a six-month paid internship with Electrolux.