In pictures: Designing the home of the future

With the rapidly increasing trend of companies attempting to create smarthomes, there is a need for new products that can work in and with our homes.

These need to keep our lives healthy without being too intrusive to our daily routines.

Now a competition organised by Electrolux Design Lab is looking for solutions. More than 1,700 submissions from around the world have been whittled down to a shortlist of just 35.

The winner will receive €5,000 and a 6-month paid internship with Electrolux’s global design centre, while second and third place will win €3,000 and €2,000 respectively.

Problems in the home that the concepts are trying to solve include unclean air and storage.

Head of group design at Electrolux and head of jury Lars Erikson comments on the submissions: “This year’s Electrolux Design Lab semi-finalists have created visionary concepts that are prime examples of what you might see in the home of the future.

“They focus on connectivity, biomimicry, robotics, wearable tech, recycling and reusing materials, all promoting healthy, sustainable lifestyles at home—virtually in some cases. Overall, the concepts make our every day busy lives more efficient and our choices more sustainable for a greener planet.”

Here are some of our favourites from the semi-finalists.

Izotz

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The Izotz is designed to conserve food using vacuum technology that is placed half in the kitchen and half on the wall outside of the building.

Outside the device, designed by Iker Legarda Gabiria, are grooves that can change size to allow for the regulation of the temperature.


Lotus

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The Lotus is an air purifier that has been made to be portable so you can take it wherever you go.

A set of three balls, which were designed by Fulden Dehneli, can be used in different areas for different tasks as suited to the lifestyle of the user.


Fabric Pen

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The Fabric Pen, created by Ingrida Kazėnaitė, is intended to help repair your clothing when it gets damaged by printing fabric.

The concept would involve nanotechnology that makes composite fabric based on the clothing of the owner.


Yura

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When it has been a long day, everyone enjoys relaxing and having a drink – it would just be even more convenient if it was given to you by a drone.

Whether it is a cocktail, tea or coffee the Yura, designed by Herman Haydin, will not only bring you a refreshing beverage but it will also make it.


Instant cleaning glove

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Stains are one of the biggest pains of homelife and there’s no simple solution for them. However this glove will disintegrate any stain or dirt from fabrics.

Using nanotechnology, ultrasound and water the glove, by Stefan Bogdan, uses hand gestures to get rid of the stains – and even has an LED screen.


AMO

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This concept by George Preoteasa is aiming to make the air in your home cleaner as well as providing games for autistic children to play.

The AMO device keeps the air within 2m clean and healthy.

All of the semi-finalists in the competition can be found here – they will all be looked at by experts from the company and then narrowed down to six finalists.


Images courtesy of Electrolux


Morphable machines: Shape-shifting robots possible with new phase-changing material

Scientists have developed a material that can switch between hard and soft states, which they say could enable the creation of low-cost, morphing robots.

Developed as part of a research project with Boston Dynamics, the Google-owned robotics company, the material was built with wax and foam by researchers from MIT, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization and Stony Brook University.

Likening the technology to that of the T-1000 robot from the movie Terminator 2: Judgement Day, an MIT release suggested that the material could be used to create robots for rescue operations.

Robots built of the material would be able to squeeze through narrow gaps, such as rubble in collapsed buildings, and then re-expand to provide assistance to trapped survivors.

phase-chage-1

The project started with the idea of creating a “squishy” robot to get through tight spaces, but soon developed into the creation of a material that could switch between properties.

This was because of the need for control by the robot: something that would be very hard to achieve if it was always soft.

“You can’t just create a bowl of Jell-O, because if the Jell-O has to manipulate an object, it would simply deform without applying significant pressure to the thing it was trying to move,” explained MIT mechanical engineering and applied mathematics professor Anette Hosoi.

A phase-changing material that could switch between hard and soft was decided upon as the best solution.

“If you’re trying to squeeze under a door, for example, you should opt for a soft state, but if you want to pick up a hammer or open a window, you need at least part of the machine to be rigid,” said Hosoi.

The material is a foam 3D grid structure coated in wax.  The foam can be squeezed into a far smaller space and will always bounce back, making it an ideal solution for the material.

The wax coating is what enables the material to switch between states: while cold it will remain hard and rigid, but when heated will soften and enable the structure to be squashed.

The researchers have proposed that this could be achieved by running wires along the struts of the lattice shape, with an electrical current applied when the wax needs to be heated.

By using such readily available materials, the researchers believe that the technology will be cheap to manufacture.

“A lot of materials innovation can be very expensive, but in this case you could just buy really low-cost polyurethane foam and some wax from a craft store,” said Nadia Cheng, who worked on the project as a former graduate student of Hosoi.

The technology may be some way from being a commercial reality, but with such cheap materials shape-shifting robots could become a ubiquitous part of our future.


Featured image: screenshot from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Inline image one courtesy of MIT.