Now in its seventh year, the Electrolux Design Lab is always a fascinating, future-minded design competition to watch (although I didn’t report on last year’s competition in which a portable spot cleaner won top honors, you can check out my post on 2010’s winner, a compact induction heating device dubbed The Snail here).

This year, the Swedish vacuum cleaner heavyweight’s contest revolved around the theme of “Experience Design." Industrial design students from across the globe were invited to create home appliances that provide for a fuller sensory experience by stimulating, engaging, and enlightening a consumer’s senses while reflecting the company’s tradition of innovative, Scandinavian design.

Reads the competition brief:

Electrolux Design Lab 2012 invites industrial design students and recent industrial design graduates (2011) to draw inspiration from professional experience creators (chefs, architects, interior designers, hotel designers etc.) to design home appliances that will provide a fuller sensory experience. It might be through state of the art technology or it might be through a clever blend of textures and surfaces. Your ideas will shape how people prepare and store food, clean and do their dishes, both within and beyond the home. Additionally, and in keeping with the heritage of Electrolux, your concept should reflect Scandinavian Design values — being sensitive to the environment, providing intuitive ease of use and aesthetic appeal.

Announced a couple weeks ago at a ceremony in Milan, this year’s winning design, Aeroball from 21-year-old Polish design student Jan Ankiersztajn, decidedly has nothing to do with doing the dishes or storing leftovers. However, it shows absolutely no deficit in the sensory experience department. The firefly-inspired Aereoball concept involves glowing, helium-assisted orbs that filter and freshen the air while hovering around your home. Heavens … how very Glade meets “Phantasm.”

In tiny bubbles that float and hover, the Aeroball cleans and filters the air while hovering in place. When filtration is not enough, the Aeroball also comes in scented varieties. Designed with inspiration from nature, the glowing shell of the sphere absorbs light during the day and radiates at night, a delicate indoor firefly always working to improve the air that we breathe. Space is such a valuable commodity these days so the Aeroball works to purify and refresh the environments we live in more precious and beautiful.
In a press release, the head of the competition jury panel Thomas Johansson describes Ankiersztajn’s concept as “a truly innovative concept that uses space in a unique way and delights our surroundings.” He adds: “It also changes our perception of an air cleaner, because it is delicate in aesthetics, it is emotional and also relevant, because it addresses the consumer’s needs.”
Ankiersztajn, who won a €5,000 cash prize and will be hired as a paid intern at Electrolux HQ in Stockholm for a six-month stint, tells the New York Times: “I didn’t like traditional air filters, which are hidden products. A group of flying spheres is more attractive.” And more startling, I must add.
Second and third prizes went to a refrigerated wall concept and a taste-indicating spoon “that offers guidance for your palate in order to bring out the chef that is inside of you,”” respectively. The latter concept, dubbed Tastee, also won the competition’s People’s Choice Award based on popular vote.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Floating, air-purifying spheres win 2012 Electrolux Design Lab
Respiratory health goes sci-fi with the winner of this year's of appliance-reimagining Electrolux Design Lab competition: Aeroball, an air-filtering/freshening