ELECTROLUX’S TEN DESIGN LAB FINALISTS (ARE ALL FUCKING STUPID): PART TWO

Last week, we talked about the first five finalists (I don’t think they’re ranked in any way) of the Electrolux Design Lab Competition.  All of them, as you may recall, were the product of the drug-fueled raves/Photoshop parties that I have no choice but to believe are the chief activity of all design students.

In my head, they take ecstasy and hang out in the CAD studio, and then when they wake up on Monday they give a name to whatever’s on screen and call it revolutionary.  I, not being on ecstasy, ruin it for the rest of you.

Anyway, here are the other five entries.

6. Spummy

Jumping right in with the moronic names, I see.

What it’s supposed to be (in a nutshell):

A food foamer

How it’s supposed to work:

Using nano-technology the Spummy creates edible foam with any flavour or combination of flavours you can imagine. With endless possibilities of flavour combinations this is the perfect tool for those looking to impress.

Why that won’t work:

Because you can’t just say “using nano-technology” and expect some magic to happen.  That’s almost as broad as saying “with technology,” which would get you laughed out of any engineering conference or, actually, casual cocktail party.  There’s also the matter of that blue virtual UI thing around the base of it, which isn’t even mentioned, let alone explained.  Also, why are people suddenly so interested in making their food into foam?  You may remember from last week that there was a thing called a Mo’Sphere that was supposed to make your food into foam because of molecular gastronomy, which is disgusting and pointless and expensive and stupid.  Barring the glaring lack of engineering insight possessed by this “designer,” food foam is at least a plausible thing, so this only gets seven out of ten what the fucks.

7. Treat

The description says “tree + eat = treat.” Inspired.

What it is (in a nutshell):

A fake tree that you hang your food on, for some reason.

How it’s supposed to work:

The Treat seamlessly combines classic food storage techniques, such as vacuum sealing, with modern remote, mobile technology for the perfect combination of freshness and convenience that is more important than ever in our increasingly busy lives. The treat has a clever and intuitive way of communicating and warning you when your food is expiring by firstly, changing colour as the food ages and finally dropping from the tree when the food has expired. You can even access the Treat with a mobile app and tell it to preheat your meal before you even get home.

Why that won’t work:

The problem here is not one of physical plausibility, for the most part.  There is the question of expiring, though.  If food expires, that means that it’s perishable, which means it probably needs to be refrigerated.  There’s no indication that these pods can do that.  You can sort of get around the issue of refrigeration with vacuum sealing, but you can’t vacuum seal everything.  Like salad, or leftover pasta, or really, most food.  Vacuum sealing sucks the water out of food as well as the air, so it’ll ruin most food with water in it, which is basically all perishable food.  Technically, though, you can still do it.  Except for the fact that vacuum sealing requires a vacuum pump, which the Treat doesn’t have, and the fact that those pods are going to have to be really strong to remain rigid and withstand vacuum pressure.  Here’s a picture of the equipment, known as Magedurger hemispheres, used in a classic experiment.

Otto von Guericke put them together, pumped all the air out, and then had two teams of 15 horses play tug-of-war to try to pull them apart.  They failed.  It’s not known how good his pump was, but if he was able to create a true vacuum then the spheres were experiencing almost 4500 pounds of force holding them together.  That’s the kind of pressures your little Plexiglas things on that tree will be experiencing.

But regardless, holding perishable food in these isn’t that great an idea because it’ll ruin it, so what about non-perishable food?  Well, non-perishable food doesn’t spoil.  So that’s pointless too.

And there are two more problems.  First, how does this thing know that your food is aging, and at what rate?  Leftover sushi ages a lot faster than leftover spaghetti, so how does it know the difference?  It’s possible that you tell it the expiration period yourself, but how is that easier than just writing it on masking tape on the Tupperware in your fridge?

And finally, why do you want this thing to drop food on your floor when it’s gone bad?  First of all, fruit drops off trees when it’s ripe, not when it’s rotten.  That’s sort of the point of that whole mechanism.  And second, coming in to your house to find food pods on the floor is going to get extremely annoying, not to mention the enormous amount of space required to house what looks like quite a small amount of food.  I don’t see any way that this could possibly improve your life, except by driving away those you once called friends.

8. Impress

What it is (in a nutshell): 

A fridge

How it’s supposed to work:

How many times have you put left overs in the fridge and forgotten about them, only to come back a week later and find them spoiled? Impress completely transforms the way we refrigerate. Impress is a refrigeration wall that holds your food and drinks for you, out in the open and not behind closed doors so you will always remember the lunch you prepared for work or find that midnight snack with ease. Also, Impress refrigerator does not refrigerate when there is nothing in it and uses less power the fewer items are pressed into it. Waste no more leftovers, waste less space and save more money with Impress.

Why that won’t work:

Because it doesn’t have a door.  That’s the single, massive, overarching problem here.  You know how you’re supposed to leave the door shut on the fridge?  You can’t.  That means that room-temperature air will be constantly flooding into those little holes where you store your stuff and, through the magic of convection, pissing your money away.  Even if you could magically keep those giant dead spaces of air around the gray tray-looking things cold, it would take a phenomenal amount of energy to do so.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can look at the cornucopia of other problems this design affords.  First, they show her pushing items into that honeycomb shape, but they don’t address the fact that this thing is going to have to take up at least twice as much space as it can hold.  No way around it; those hexagonal columns have to be pushed somewhere.  Secondly, what if something isn’t the exact right size for one of those columns?  That means you’re going to have to barely infringe on another one’s space, which means it has to be pushed in, which means more dead airspace that needs to be cooled.  And finally, are people actually losing things in their fridges?  The only way I can think of that you could possibly forget about something for that long is if you’re the kind of person who keeps your fridge ABSOLUTELY FULL at all times, in which case this thing doesn’t have enough space for you. Checkmate.

9. Memory

What it is (in a nutshell):

A coffee maker that remembers you

How it’s supposed to work:

Memory is a coffee maker that uses hand print recognition to make the right cup of coffee for the right person. Whether you want weak, medium or strong coffee or maybe you prefer an espresso to a ristretto. Any way that you might think the perfect cup of coffee is made, Memory will remember every time. You tell it what you want, it scans your hand and the next time you want that exact same cup of coffee Memory is ready and waiting to serve it to you.

Why that won’t work:

You know what?  It will.  This is the only thing on this list that’s not absolutely, ridiculously, insultingly implausible.  It’s also the only one designed by an Asian person.  Coincidence?

Coffee makers with computers in them that can mix a vast array of different drinks already exist.  Handprint scanners already exist.  Incorporating the two is actually a pretty good idea.  Can you imagine how nice it would be if you could stagger downstairs like the frazzle-haired zombie you undoubtedly look like in the morning and, rather than having to push a series of tiny buttons, you could just slap your hand down on the coffee maker, throw a cup under there, and you’d have your perfect cup right away?  This is the future, people.

I wish I could end on that note.  I wish there were only nine.  But there aren’t.  Sigh.

10. Tastee

It looks like a cattle prod. I wish it were a cattle prod. It’s not.

What it is (in a nutshell):

A tongue.  Yes, really.

How it’s supposed to work:

Don’t you wish you had the sophisticated palette of a professional chef? The Electrolux Tastee is a taste indicator that is used when cooking to assist the chef in bringing out the flavours in the meal. The Tastee is the shape and size of a regular spoon but with one main difference, The Tastee tastes for you. Using receptors based on the human taste bud the Tastee tells you what you need, what you don’t and maybe even something you would never imagine. Tastee helps you make the perfectly balanced, flavourful meal for you and your family to enjoy.

Why that won’t work:

Because taste is not objective.  Sure, it could use chemical sensors and tell you whether something is salty or sweet or sour, but that’s about as detailed as it can be.  Plus, all it can do is tell you how much of something there is.  That’s what computers do.  It can give you an objective measure of the relative concentrations of various chemicals, but it can’t tell you whether that’s too much of whatever it’s measuring.  In order to do that, there would have to be one absolute metric for the correct concentration of a given chemical in a given dish, and if that were true then computers would already be making our food and chefs would be obsolete and the word “taste” would not mean what it means.

You simply cannot just use science to determine if food tastes good.  All this spoon can tell you is that there is a certain amount of salt in your soup, and if you can’t determine with your own goddamn face organs whether it’s too much or not, then you shouldn’t be cooking.

Here’s the thing.  I’m not saying that innovation is bad.  I’m not trying to repress new ideas.  I’m just saying that if you have a new idea, one that you want to put forward and get actual money for and change the world…maybe learn some science first and make sure it’s not physically impossible.

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2 thoughts on “ELECTROLUX’S TEN DESIGN LAB FINALISTS (ARE ALL FUCKING STUPID): PART TWO

  1. Tim Danaher says:

    Errr… No. 7: Why not 'Treet'? Then, at least, they could have got a miserable fucking pun out of it…

  2. Denise says:

    I can actually see a point for the Tastee … for people who have impaired taste / smell (like myself) … we often can't tell if something is off, or too salty etc. So this *might* have some use. A bit. Maybe.

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