The 2001 Industrial Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), cosponsored by the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and Business Week magazine, honored 189 award winners with 44 Golds, 63 Silvers, and 82 Bronzes from a record number 1,260 entries. Winners were selected from 11 categories ranging from business and industrial products to student designs.
Judging is based on design innovation, benefit to consumers, environmental responsibility, aesthetics, and appeal. All awards mentioned are Gold unless otherwise noted.
Solving Web issues
The Voyager WebPad is a wireless Web browser and e-mail appliance for the home that can be used nearly anywhere except, perhaps, the bathtub.
When closed, the 2.3-lb unit can be used as a tablet with touchscreen navigation. The display adjusts up for viewing and the keyboard pulls out with a finger hole. When the keyboard is out, the unit's handle retracts to maintain a small footprint. The display frame has soft keys in each corner for instant home, mail, www, and special ISP functions. Designer: Whipsaw Inc., San Jose, Price: $429.
A level above
For professional and do-it-yourself home construction, levels are essential tools. The bronze-award-winning Stanley FatMax magnetic level features unbreakable acrylic vials, and an extruded aluminum body with TPR hand grip and replaceable end caps. The end caps protect the level and work surfaces from damage.
Also, ceramic magnets sit in protective ABS carriers in the base so the level can adhere to metal studs or ductwork. Designer: The Stanley Works, New Britain, Conn. Price: $14.99.
Taking a bite out of Apple
Claimed to be the lightest and thinnest laptop on the market, the 1-in.-thick Titanium PowerBook G4 weighs in at 5.3 lb. Designers stretched a formed titanium skin over a carbon-fiber frame for a rigid but lightweight unit. The Titanium G4 has a 15.2-in. monitor, a boon over traditional 14-in. desktop displays. The G4 is not all good looks, however. The full-featured laptop includes a slot-load DVD drive, full I/O, and a 5-hr lithium-ion battery. Designer: Apple Design Team, Cupertino, Calif. Price: $2,599 to $3,499.
The IntelliMouse Optical eliminates standard rubber rollers used in other mouse-tracking devices. An optical sensor reads the surface passing under the mouse. And, because there are no rollers, there's no dust and dirt accumulation that troubles most mouse devices. Also, back and forward controls on the sides of the IntelliMouse give easy page access while surfing the Web, instead of relying on tool bars. To top it all off, it looks cool. Injection-molded ABS with a metallic paint finish accented neutral grey coordinates with most PCs. Designer: Microsoft, Redmond, Wash. Price: $49.
Testhead gets a fresh, new look
The Kalos testhead tests flash-memory chips, up to 128 at a time. Said to be the fastest and most powerful chip-tester on the market today, the 800-lb unit evaluates chips both in circuit-board assemblies and when they are still in wafer form. This saves manufacturing costs by identifying faulty chips prior to final assembly.
To improve traditional testheads, designers faced space constraints, airflow ventilation, costs, inner chamber accessibility, and cable-management issues. Keeping the original small footprint, airflow routes through the center and out the sides. Many existing parts are used to keep costs down. The top cover hinges in a "salon-door" fashion, locating the opening mechanisms of the eight chambers along a central axis. This lets operators access each inner chamber from one location. The left side panel supports four cables running from the front to the back of the testhead where they join another four cables and attach to a remote server. The testhead has a modern look, thanks to pressure-formed ABS, aluminum casting, and formed sheet metal. Designer: frog design inc., Sunnyvale, Calif. Price: $1 million.
The Duo Bi-directional door refrigerator concept has rotary drawer shelves, a movable caddy home bar and table, and a voice-memo communicator. Bi-directional doors give access to both sides of the refrigerator. The drawers pull out as well as rotate. The bottom half of the refrigerator is a moving home bar with temperature controls for different beverages that doubles as a table when removed. The voice-message communicator lets family members keep in touch. This next-generation refrigerator leaves only one thing to be desired — a freezer. Designer: LG Electronics Inc., Seoul, Korea. Price: N/A.
Digital and conventional shake hands
The silver-award-winning EFS-1 digital imaging system instantly converts a conventional camera into a digital one. An (e)film cartridge fits the top five pro-amateur 35-mm SLR cameras on the market. The (e)film cartridge uses 64 Mbyte of nonvolatile flash memory to capture and store up to 24, 36-bit, 1.3-megapixel digital images. An LED displays picture count and battery status. An (e)port carrier serves as the (e)film's protective housing. It's also USB equipped and doubles as a PC-card link to a laptop computer and as a junction to an (e)box storage module. The (e)box is flash-card compatible, adding memory to the system. The (e)film cartridge drops into the (e)port carrier for storage and image downloading. Designer: IDE Inc., Scotts Valley, Calif. Price: $699.
Teaching an Old Hammer New Tricks
The Silver-award-winning Ridgid Robohammer is a new twist on an old standby. Currently, when hammers drive nails, the impact sends shock waves to the hand. The Robohammer reduces recoil and vibration to the hand and arm, but also has a steel shaft for durability. A thin slot cut into the head ends at an oval-shaped hole containing a shock-absorbing insert. On impact, the head flexes, the sides of the slot touch, and energy normally lost in recoiling action is redirected back into the nail. The three-layered elastomeric handle has a flared base for a firm grip. Also, gripping the offset shaft helps keep distance between the hand and hammering surface, reducing the likelihood of hammering your thumb. Designer: Emerson Tool Co., St. Louis. Price: $30.
The John Deere Spin-Steer is said to be the first lawn tractor to offer zero-turning radius maneuverability with a traditional steering wheel. Designers repositioned the engine in a zero-turn radius type vehicle from rear to front so it looks and feels like a conventional lawn tractor. Two separate hydraulic motors, one for each side, propel traditional ZTR mowers which use dual levers to steer. Because they operate independently and at different efficiencies, maintaining straight lines or tight turns is difficult. A new drive system packaging the two hydraulic motors in one case clears that hurdle.
Also, a zero-turn machine with a steering wheel does not follow the same rules as conventional lawn tractors when backing up. When backing up a conventional lawn tractor, turning the steering wheel to the left guides the rear of the machine to follow, like having a car in reverse. However, when backing up a zero-turn tractor, if the steering wheel turns to the left, the front of the machine follows, but not the rear. A reverse logic system automatically switches the steering to react as operators expect.
Plastic rear fenders replace sheet metal for better durability during those occasional accidental encounters with trees and shrubs. Sight windows in the fenders display various fluid levels.
And, for mowing comfort, compartments for keys, wallets, and sunglasses are available, as well as cupholders for your beverage of choice. The SST tractor comes with a 16 or 18-hp Briggs and Stratton V-Twin Vanguard engine with OHV. Designer: Henry Dreyfuss Associates, Wood-Ridge, N.J. Price: $4,299.
Silver-award-winning Hoover Q concept vacuum cleaner uses infrared sensors to follow you through the house. A remote control lets the vacuum unplug itself from an outlet slowly to retrieve the power cord. A spool-shaped canister has large wheels for easy motion and to minimize overturning. The canister has an infrared link to the wand which lets the "follow me" feature activate. A translucent, bagless waste compartment makes it easy to see when changing is necessary. An S-Shaped wand cuts down on bending to vacuum underneath furniture and lets it stand up on its own. Designer: IDEO, Palo Alto, Calif. Price: N/A.
Is that a computer in your pocket?
The Flash Key is a pocket computer. To use, simply plug it into a USB socket on a computer, and it becomes a fully functioning add-on computer. The memory module sits on a narrow stalk which is a bit wider than the USB plug. It works with any computer that has a USB slot, regardless of operating platform. Users can store, remove, and share data securely and portably. The Flash Key requires no batteries, power attachments, adapters, disks, or drives. Designer: Ziba Design Inc., Portland, Oreg. Price: $70-$90, depending on storage capacity.
Thinking outside the thumbtack
The ReThinking the Thumbtack incorporates new features that go beyond simply attaching paper to a wall. Research shows that people use thumbtacks in creative ways, such as stringing up lights. The aluminum-body double pins and horseshoe design let the tacks do more tasks, such as stringing cords, lights, and hooks. Next on the agenda: paper clips? Designer: University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, Urbana, Ill. Price: $0.30/tack.
Mobile Law Enforcement
The bronze-award-winning Tetra system provides police in the U.K. with a handheld or body-mounted terminal that uses a secure radio frequency in Europe known as Tetra. Tetra-secure radio frequency is specifically for public safety and security. The handheld terminal provides data and voice communications, digital imaging, and bar-code scanning. The pocket PC architecture and large touchscreen lets officers send and receive data, fill out forms, and access national and international police databases. A digital-imaging feature captures images and sends them to other officers and the main data bank. Bar-code scanning of driver's licenses, serial numbers, and license plates transfers the data to headquarters for a real-time search. The imager also captures and decodes bar-code graphics. The terminal provides hands-free communication for emergency situations, and a GPS feature locates officers while in pursuit or in dangerous situations. It sits in a magnesium housing with rubber overmold and an internal gasket for weather protection. A nylon mesh belt and sash system holsters the terminal. And, for safety, a reflective thread is woven through the nylon. Designer: Steiner Design Associates, Greenwich, Conn. Price: N/A.
Drug-free therapy for ADD
The Thoughtcaster helps kids with attention-deficit problems improve their attention spans and concentration without relying on drugs. It's based on a training program from NASA's Langley Research Center to extend a pilot's attention span. It consists of a wireless helmet, wired base station, and software. Three sensors in the helmet detect brainwave signals and wirelessly transmit them to the base station while the child concentrates on playing a computer game. A typical game requires concentrating on a skateboarder or cyclist in order to win a race.
The base station connects to a home computer. After installing the software, a parent or teacher adjusts the helmet on the child's head. An onscreen bar graph indicates when the helmet is fitted correctly. The display prompts the child to push a mode button under the bill of the helmet to activate the computer game. The child's brainwaves control the action on the screen. Attention training occurs through the brainwave information emitted by the child and the immediate visual feedback received from the game.
The helmet fits children from 6 to 12 years of age. Replacement sensors snap into the helmet which automatically recalibrates itself. Designer: Bolt, Charlotte, N.C., Spark, Richmond, Va. Price: $995.