Watch out! Flying mini-robots clean up at Electrolux Design Lab

18 Oct 2013

The 'Mab' flying robotic team. One day they could be arriving at your home to clean it

An automated cleaning system made up of hundreds of flying mini-robots has become the winning concept at the 2013 Electrolux Design Lab 2013 Contest. Adrian Perez Zapata from Colombia is the brain behind the robots, which are led by the ‘Mab’ robot. If they ever come to fruition, these robotic creatures could potentially clean surfaces with a drop of water.

This is the 11th year of the Electrolux Design Lab competition, and the finals took place in the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, this week.

The theme of Design Lab 2013 was Inspired Urban Living, taking in global urbanisation and the notion that the city of tomorrow will be short on space, busy and compact.

It’s the future of the home, but not as we know it!

Incidentally, the overall winner – this flying robotic cleaning team – is being led by ‘Mab’. The People’s Choice Award went to Mab after this robotic concept gleaned more than 40pc of the 4,391 public votes on the Design Lab website.

It would appear that Mab likes to clean. This robotic design concept would ideally scan the house, get a helicopter view and zero in their flying robotic team on areas and surfaces that need some serious cleaning.

“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,” Zapata said.


Adrian Perez Zapata from Colombia, who won the top prize at the Electrolux Design contest

The concept Mab, he said, only requires a short initial configuration to function autonomously.

So, in an ideal world, one 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.”

Stefano Marzano, chief design officer at Electrolux, who headed up the jury, said the Mab concept renews the idea of looking at the robot.

One can see such a robot 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”, he said.

Second prize in the Electrolux competition went to the ‘Atomium 3D food printer’. Luiza Silva from Brazil pioneered this particular concept.

The goal is to tackle the global issue of adopting healthy lifestyles and countering chronic diseases by drawing inspiration from the playfulness and creativity of children, Silva said.

Electolux Design Lab 2013

The top three winners of the Electrolux Design Lab 2013

Third prize went to Jeabyun Yeon from Korea for ‘Breathing Wall’ – an expanding wall for the home.

The jury’s motivation was that the Breathing Wall design concept spawns a relevant discussion about a future business model that is not just about making appliances, but about “generating propositions” that could bring a poetic quality into the construction industry.

In all, Electrolux received more than 1,700 submissions from more than 60 countries around the world for this year’s competition.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic