This year we found a notable balance between hi-fi and lo-fi entries, demonstrating the unique and technologically contrasting ways a design can find success both functionally and aesthetically. The designers approached ideas and solutions typically situated at one end of the spectrum with concepts and adjustments from the opposing side. Here are a few of the projects that successfully straddled both ends of the spectrum.
The August Lock effectively removes the need for keys while creating a digital record of anyone who enters your home. The accompanying app notifies homeowners when there is any activity at their door and also has a unique social element, allowing guests to leave notes for the homeowner.
Installed over an existing deadbolt, August is a device that uses bluetooth technology to automatically recognize homeowners—and anyone they have added to a list of invited guests—unlocking and then locking again without the user having to do anything. "Even with the rise of the connected home, the front door was a market that had remained relatively untapped," notes the project team. "However, the value that August provides to its users is unparalleled—the ability to have your door unlock for you simply through proximity; being able to let guests in from anywhere in the world; having a clear record of anyone who is entered your home—capacities we would have never thought possible before, and will now become a standard of homeownership."
The ribs on top of the outer shell have embedded LED's within the silicone. They monitor how light or dark it is outside and automatically turn on when the sun sets. On the interior, a weight distribution mat responds to pressure, opening up when stepped on to allow waste passage and then closes back up when the user steps off. This feature eliminates a touch point and eliminates odors. The seat is also re-designed so that "hovering" is much easier and less messy. On the exterior, the back of the structure has been retrofitted with a public urinal, complete with swinging partitions on either side to insure privacy. This feature also collects bio materials and stores them to be used as fertilizer.
"If asked, 'What is one of the most common worst experiences known to the contemporary person' what would you say," asks designer Cassie Stepanek. "After having conversations with approximately 200 people from 6 different countries the answer was obvious: using a port-a-potty." That's where the BioPod comes in. To drastically redefine our experience of transportable bathrooms, the BioPod is an ergonomic take on this not-so-loved design category. It comes equipped with features that improve ventilation, consider sustainability measures, cater to both male and female needs and improve the way portable toilets are stored and transported.
"I was inspired by the "No Waste" Issue published by Pentagram papers...The book showcased how communities in Cuba became creative in using recycling resources that were already considered as junk and re-using them to provide various functional purposes," explains Alvarez.
The Flood Preparedness Kit is a simple information board intended for use in public school and evacuation shelters throughout the Philippines in regions of flood-prone communities. The kit is composed of a calendar charting average monthly water levels and temperatures; information about storm signals, emergency hotlines and proper safety measures; a toolkit with important tools for flood safety and survival; a 6'x8' SOS Distress Signal. Designer Melvin Alvarez sought a resourceful, accessible material approach that would invite interaction and community involvement. "The use of duct tape strips instead of vinyl allows the community to participate in the improvement and customization of the template, making the kit their own and allowing them to learn more from it while also helping their community become more informed and safe against flooding and its harms," he explains.
"We wanted to highlight the experience of immersive media, rather than the hardware required to experience it," notes the design team at Google. "We specifically built Cardboard for people who wouldn't otherwise experience virtual reality because of its technical complexity or its cost, but even seasoned VR developers wanting to quickly prototype VR experiences have found Cardboard useful and captivating," explains the design team at Google.
Cardboard is a new, low-cost virtual reality viewer. It's die cut from a single piece of cardboard, arrives flat-packed and can be assembled by the user in under a minute. The humble material is simple to manufacture industrially and templates freely available on the internet make it easy for people to replicate and construct at home. Cardboard makes use of some ingenious design features: A ring magnet on the left side creates a sliding input that requires no physical or electronic connection to the phone; An NFC sticker launches the app automatically when a device is inserted; A simple rubber band keeps the phone from sliding around. "What we really liked about this is that it really democratizes the access to a virtual reality and we think it opens up totally new possibilities for both interaction and content creation," remarked our jury.