Industrial Design

A Beach Umbrella that Uses the Sun’s Energy to Cool You Off

I have a fairly large patio behind my house that is in direct sunlight from about 11:00 in the morning until about 6:00 in the evening. It gets a little toasty during the summer months, and while I have a patio umbrella, the umbrella doesn’t do much more than provide shade. Wouldn’t it be great if when the umbrella was extended, it could do more? Something like provide energy that could be used for a variety of things. Apparently Sammontana, Italy’s leading gelato, and frozen treats brand thought the same thing, so they teamed up with the international design and innovation firm CRA-Carla Ratti Associati to design a beach umbrella that uses solar energy to do just that.

The umbrella features an unfolding photovoltaic array that generates electric power which is then used to do things like charging your device, or run a refrigeration system. Designed in collaboration with the proponent of “transformable design” Chuck Hoberman and inspired by aerospace technologies the umbrella strives to transform how we think about products and multifunctional design. The first prototypes of the beach umbrella will be showcased in the city center of Milan, Italy, from June 12th at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park.

The beach umbrella opens like a work of origami or in a similar fashion to the solar systems on NASA spacecraft. At 2.5 meters high (8.2 feet) and a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), the foldable photovoltaic panels on top of the umbrella absorb sunlight from the whole hemisphere and convert it into electricity, powering coolers and nebulizers underneath. In particular, for Sammontana, a mini-refrigerator allows them to keep gelato and drinks cool even during the warmest hours of the day. Electric power from either one or multiple umbrellas can be pooled together to power a large ice-cream refrigerator. The modular system is conceived to be scalable, bringing clean energy to larger public areas.

“Can we use the power of the abundant summer sunshine to make our holiday experience more sustainable?” says Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The design concept of this project starts from using the sun to produce electricity to cool the space under the umbrella – and then scale it up to provide power to any beach resort. We are delighted that Sammontana invited us to develop this project, as both our organizations share a strong commitment to environmental values and human wellbeing.”

Since 2016, Sammontana has initiated a process to reduce the environmental impact of its production activities, inspired by the principles put forward in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program features an assessment and compensation of the CO2eq of the Sammontana products as well as a choice of the most advanced packaging solutions. 

A prototype of the beach umbrella will be exhibited from June 12th to August 8th, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park, which is an initiative of the Riccardo Catella Foundation. The installation, located in the fashionable Porta Nuova district of Italy’s design capital, creates a lounge area that can be accessed by the public free of charge, as with all the initiatives of the BAM cultural program. The project is showcased both in the stand-alone mode and in an aggregated form – featuring eleven beach umbrellas powering a refrigerator.

The Milanese test will serve as the first step to evaluate how the innovation process might accelerate and potentially be brought to Italy’s 4,970 miles coastline, promoting a more sustainable approach to summer leisure.

AirPods Max “Journey Into Sound”

With the announcement this week from Apple about the new AirPods Max a flurry of new advertisements promoting the hardware has hit the internet and the airwaves. While the headphones are truly a thing of beauty, and probably sound great I won’t be forking over $549.00 dollars to Apple any time soon for a pair. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy all of the eye candy that is popping up.

Case in point, AirPods Max — Journey into Sound from directing duo Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia. The two have put together a spacey, somewhat trippy Spot that shows off the great design of the new AirPods Max while promoting the high tech audio features. The spot is a one minute and thirty-eight-second experience that probably sounds fantastic on the new AirPods max or my surround sound system at home. (I’ll be watching this again tonight on my TV with the sound turned up for sure.) It’s visually stunning as well with some really nice CG effects, editing, and color grading.

The dream like state of the spot feels so fitting for a person getting lost in music while relaxing on the sofa. It is the perfect product/brand positioning for something that is “a perfect balance of exhilarating high-fidelity audio and the effortless magic of AirPods.” according to Apple.

Fixture or Sculpture? You Decide.

When you think about it, the design of the common bathroom sink hasn’t changed that much in the last couple hundred years or so. It’s basically a large basin with a water source and a drain. More often than not the look is a variable from a common shape, rectangle, oval, square, etc. While there are variations in styling it’s not the kind of thing that most people would show off to their guests and talk about the beautiful lines, and aesthetic appeal of it.

This, however, is something that you probably would show off to your guests, or at least get a reaction from them after using your bathroom. That’s exactly what the AVID sink achieves, with its sculptural form that seems to float. The shape encourages touch and the exploration of form. Inspired by the deformation of a soft surface when we apply pressure to it with a finger, the organic indent forms the basin for the water to be held.

There are two versions of AVID. One that has a thin edge, and another that has an apron extending about 6 to 8 inches below the shelf. Each is equally attractive and functional. The thinner of the two can also be mounted on a cabinet, but in my opinion, that would detract from the shape itself. There is something about the way the thin edge version sits in its space that makes it so appealing.

One thing I am curious about is how you would hide the P-Trap under the drain on the thin edge version? It would be impossible to conceal it unless you ran the drain back into the wall and concealed it within the framing of the structure. Something that seems to be more daunting than leaving it exposed beneath the sink. The better solution would be to use a piece of high-end plumbing that has a lower profile and looks as good as AVID does.

AVID was designed by Nacho Fontelles Arnau & Carlos Granell for Indutec there is no word on pricing or availability. At least I couldn’t find any on the Indutec website.

Dyson Lightcycle Morph. Well Designed but Pricy.

When you hear the name “Dyson” the first thing that pops into your head is vacuum cleaners. Over the years Dyson has done an amazing job of advertising and marketing their vacuums and it has paid off for them. When I hear the name “Dyson” I think of the design. Industrial design and technology to be specific. Why? Because Dyson has always done a really great job of producing not only very functional products, but beautifully designed products as well.

They are a company that truly understands how form and function do go hand in hand, much the same way Apple does. Because of this, you end up paying a premium price for something that products from other manufacturers do with equal performance, but maybe not with the same quality of design and materials that Dyson offers.

Case in point the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, a new floor and task lamp from Dyson that looks at what lighting does, and how it affects mood.

the Dyson Lightcycle Morph employs local daylight tracking to offer customized solutions that mimic natural light. The lamps are connected to the Dyson Link App, allowing for full adjustability depending on the user’s task, age, mood, and local daylight.

“Task” for focused light, “Indirect” for less intense situations, “Feature” for dramatic lighting and “Ambient” for a warm glow that is designed to mimic candle light. These are the four general light settings the lamp offers. It also offers pre-set modes called “Study,” “Relax,” “Precision,” “Boost,” “Wake-Up,” “Sleep,” and “Away.” Users are able to save up to 20 custom light settings that can be controlled by a dimmer and
color temperature selection feature.

Here’s the kicker though. The lamps cost $650.00 and $850.00 respectively. So what do you get for that? Well, the LEDs are supposed to last 60 years, which if you amortize the cost over that length of time actually is an OK value. (provided the rest of the lamp lasts that long). You also get a lamp that is made from high-quality materials, with a built-in motion sensor to help save energy, integrated USD charging built into the base, and intelligent touch-activated slide controls.

“With the Dyson Lightcycle Morph, our aim was to challenge the fundamental conventions of contemporary artificial lighting and find a solution. So we developed a light that tracks natural daylight and intelligently transforms for different uses – providing the right light, at the right time, precisely where it’s needed,”

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

It’s also a beautiful object in its own right. Thoughtfully designed by the Dyson team, and while that might not factor into a lot of people buying decisions, it will have an appeal for that audience that loves good design. There are truckloads of LED lamps available on the market, but in my opinion, this shows where Dyson’s design thinking extends beyond simply creating a nice looking LED task lamp.

One thing that most people don’t think about are things like packaging and assembly. How they are an integral part of the design process and the end-user experience. The video below shows how Dyson tackled this. Both the packaging and lamp assembly are done well. The packaging not only holds the parts, but it functions as an assembly stand for the base on the task lamp. (this isn’t the case on the floor lamp and in the video, the woman assembling her $850.00 is rolling it around on the floor. I think I would have put down a cloth to prevent scratches) The lamp goes together quickly and is on and ready to explore in minutes. There is some waste in the floor lamp packaging, but that’s to be expected since the vertical shaft is almost 48 inches in length. Overall Dyson did a pretty good job with this though.

“Artificial light is still a relatively new concept for humans. If you were to shrink evolution into 24 hours, artificial light would only have existed for around seven seconds.” Because of this, human circadian rhythms are still mostly in sync with the natural rising and setting of the sun. Lightcycle Morph’s adaptability moves beyond artificial light’s typical limitations to create a more realistic and personalized lighting environment for users.

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer.

Will I be purchasing either of these lamps from Dyson? No, I won’t. I don’t have any need for either of them at this time. That doesn’t mean I can’t admire what went into the design and construction of the Dyson Lightcycle Morph. It really is a well thought out piece of industrial design that I bet quite a few people will pick up for their home or office.