Even if you're not into home appliances, Electrolux's Design Lab 2011 competition is something worth watching, not least because a neat robot vacuum made it to the finals.
One is the Robo TAP Cleaner by Gyu-Ha Choi of Handong Global University in South Korea. This design improves upon automatic vacuums like Roomba by giving users more hands-on (well, make that feet-on) control.
Robo TAP makes use of an indoor positioning system as it follows its own route to vacuum household floors. But when you want it to pay attention to a particularly dirty spot, you just tap your foot twice to summon it.
All you need is a slender remote tucked into your footwear to get its attention. Three taps return it to its previous routine. And if you click your heels together, you get whisked back to Kansas.
As seen in the vid below, there are some out-of-the-box designs among the other seven finalists. One is the Smoobo Blender by Roseanne de Bruin of New Zealand's Massey University.
To make a smoothie, you pour the ingredients into a large ball covered with nodules, and bounce. Interior blades mix it up for a perfect drink. Just don't try to slam-dunk it.
Kent Madden of Carleton University in Canada, meanwhile, dreamed up a portable rotating bagel toaster that runs on sugar crystal batteries--the same power source as the winning entry for 2010, a portable cooking device called the Snail.
Other finalists for this year include a wall-mounted slow cooker and a portable microwave. The winners will be decided in September, and the top designer will bag 5,000 euros (a little over $7,000) and a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux global design center.