I have a soft spot for futuristic, pie-in-the-sky designs for kitchen tools and gadgets. The appliances we use every day really don't change much from year to year; they get sleeker knobs and fresh colors, but I am impatient for innovations that reimagine how cooking could look. One of the most interesting places to see new ideas is Electrolux's Design Lab, an annual competition that invites design students to share their ideas for new home innovations. Here are five kitchen designs I especially like this year...
- Nutrima - This wins the prize for the gadget I most want in my kitchen right now. At its simplest, it's a flat mat that acts as a normal kitchen scale. It gets its electrical charge by bending back and forth before use. The futuristic aspect comes in with its ability to also analyze and measure nutritional info, possible toxins, and freshness. Wouldn't it be wonderful to put something on a scale and instantly get a calorie readout? Designed by Janne Palovuori of Finland.
- Harvest Matching - From the expanding space of social cooking, this "share stick" measures the ripeness of the plants in your garden, and communicates with the gardens of your friends. When there is produce to be harvested, it suggests meals that you could can make with the bounty of your garden and your friend's combined. Fanciful, creative, and charming. Designed by Ke chang-han of Taiwan.
- 2D Smart Kitchen - A reimagining of the traditional kitchen for ultra small spaces and busy city-dwellers. It's built into the wall with an interactive touch screen, and appears to cook your entire meal — from chilled storage to waterjet cutting machine to combi-oven. You move the food from one machine to the other and it does the work. Also very fanciful, but a good example of rethinking the essential elements of a kitchen. Designed by Ermi van Oers of The Netherlands.
- Atomium - This is a 3D printer that helps children turn drawings or concepts of the food they want to eat into food. Very futuristic, but fun to imagine: building a cake from a drawing, at the molecular level? Far out. Designed by Luiza Silva of Brazil.
- Kitchen Hub - This helps keep track of what everyone in the family is eating, comparing to nutritional recommendations, and also keeps a running tally of your food supplies to help you plan and shop. It also suggests recipes and meals based on what's in your fridge and pantry, prioritizing food that is nearing the end of its shelf life. Designed by Francisco Barboza Grasa of Italy.