I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


9 February 2016

Designs of the Year 2015

Each year London's Design Museum hosts the Designs of the Year exhibition. The 2015 exhibition opened last March but I've only just got around to seeing it (it closes 3 April 2016).

As usual there was an interesting and stimulating mixture of built objects or design concepts from around the world. A few criticisms: I didn't notice any mention of cost, whether to the manufacturer of the consumer. Some excellent ideas have failed because the cost can't fall to the price that consumers are willing (or able) to pay. It often isn't clear if a design is merely a concept or a proven, and available, product. Design is by manufacturing and selling as well as looks and function. And it would be good if it was easy to find more information, such as (dare I say it ?) patent specifications.

There is for example an inflatable airbag jacket by Italian company Dainese, as illustrated here: the D-Air® Street.

There are a number of World patent applications by Dainese concerning inflatable inventions. The idea is that sensors on the fork of a motorcycle anticipate a collision, They send a wireless signal to activators in the cells of the jacket, which inflate in just 45 milliseconds. The jacket is powered by a battery which can be charged using a USB connector. There is a webpage by Dainese about the product, which is already available.

The concept of airbags for motorcycle users is an intriguing one, and I have posted before on the subject, with the Hovding airbag helmet.

Another invention is a new kind of coffee maker, as illustrated below.

This is Miito, by Danish designers Nils Chudy and Jasmina Grase. Most people grossly overfill kettles and hence boil far more water than they actually use in the hot drink. Even if they keep to the recommended filling line, they are making enough hot water for two cups and not just one. This device has an induction base which uses electromagnetism to heat the base of the rod while it is inside the cup and hence the liquid contents. It powers down when the water boils, or the rod is removed. I like the cool simplicity of the idea. Of course, it won't work if you are making cups for more than one person. You can reserve one for 25 Euros.

The Google autonomous car was also there. I must admit to doubts about this concept, if only because if there is a crash, who is liable, as no one is actually driving the car ?

The exhibition encourages people to vote for their favourite design, with totals given on a board. When I visited the most popular was The Ocean Cleanup, by three Dutch designers. Huge booms attached to the seabed use ocean currents to sweep pieces of plastic and other debris to a containment area 40 km long, shaped like a giant V, where the material is compressed and later removed. While the idea of dealing with this growing problem is laudable, I wonder at the cost if the seabed is deep below the surface, and about hazards to shipping. Still, I hope it works. There is a lot of information about this solution at The Ocean Cleanup website, which says that a trial in the North Sea will take place in 2016.

If you are near London, I strongly encourage visiting the exhibition and letting a flow of ideas pour over you.

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