Small, flying robot cleaners win Electrolux Design Lab contest

The 11th Annual Electrolux Design Lab competition produced some pretty neat concepts this year, and after narrowing the field to eight last month, we have a winner.

And the award goes to … “Mab,” an automated cleaning system concept that attracted quite a bit of attention over the summer. Mab envisions hundreds of flying mini-robots cleaning surfaces by touching them with a drop of water before returning to their base station. It was designed by Adrian Perez Zapata of Colombia, who describes it in almost supernatural terms:

“I was in my university gardens when I observed the controlled flight of bees pollinating a flower, and how magical it is to see swarms of bees working together,” he said in a statement. “My concept Mab only requires a short initial configuration to function autonomously, so you could arrive home and see a swarm of mini-robots roaming around cleaning independently. This means you could sit back and relax, as you observe with great astonishment the little Mab ‘fairies’ working their magic autonomously.”

Mab is a concept and — like many of the designs presented in the contest — shouldn’t be viewed as technology we’re likely to see anytime soon. As designed, Mab would employ 908 tiny autonomous robots that draw power wirelessly and from the sun. While we have seen tiny flying robots like the RoboBee from Harvard, and researchers are working on solar-powered micro air vehicles, the technology isn’t nearly mature enough to handle Mab’s requirements. However, the design undoubtedly presents a compelling vision for the future, as it also won the contest’s People’s Choice Award with more than 40 percent of the 4,391 public votes on the Design Lab website.

“This year’s winning concept renews the idea of looking at the robot, seeing it not as one unit that mimics a person, but instead as something inspired by the magical logic of nature’s collaborative efforts and group intelligence,” Stefano Marzano, chief design officer at Electrolux, said in a statement. “The Mab is an innovative concept which could be relevant to minimize the daily cleanings efforts of consumers as well as businesses, while maximizing the results.”

Second place went to the Star Trek-like Atomium 3-D food printer by Luiza Silva of Brazil and third place went to a stress-relieving Breathing Wall by Jeabyun Yeon of Korea.

As winner, Perez Zapata will receive 5,000 euros and a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux global design center as well as 1,000 euros for the People’s Choice Award. Second place will receive 3,000 euros and third place is 2,000 euros.

Electrolux says it received more 1,700 submissions from more than 60 countries, with more than 100 chosen to take part in the competition and develop their concepts further with feedback from Electrolux professionals. The results were announced today from the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

[ image courtesy of Electrolux Design Lab ]

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