SLIBALL is a curious device designed to disinfect shopping cart handles

It was probably about time that we became acutely aware of the unseen dangers that lurked in corners and surfaces, particularly the viruses and microorganisms that lie in wait on tables, door knobs, and handles for days. Unfortunately, it’s hard to break old habits of touching things without much thought, especially when it involves something as trivial as wiping down handles and surfaces before using them. Those who do try to develop good habits, on the other hand, will discover that there isn’t that much support for making it convenient to keep surfaces clean without doing too much work. That is especially a problem in very public spaces like supermarkets, where everything is exposed to dozens of people touching almost everything. This is the reason for this odd round device’s existence, to make cleaning such surfaces, specifically shopping cart handles, as easy as inserting a coin.

Designer: Xinyu Ye

It doesn’t take too much effort to wipe something down before using it, especially if it’s something that tends to be used by multiple people. The problem and the inconvenience come from not having the right tools for the job, which is often a pack of wet wipes in your bag or pocket. Alternatively, you could just spray it with alcohol, presuming you’re carrying a bottle all the time, but the end result could be a sticky, wet, and almost gross handle that will still leave you feeling dirty in the end.

Truth be told, customers in a store shouldn’t be waging a crusade against germs on their own. While it has become customary for many businesses to provide hand sanitizer dispensers at key points in an area, those just aren’t enough for high-traffic, high-contact areas like supermarkets. It’s about time that companies and businesses also step up their sanitation game, and this device, partially inspired by a mushroom, is one gadget that could help them improve their customer safety and satisfaction.

At first glance, SLIBALL almost looks like some futuristic sci-fi device, especially thanks to its sleek shape and glossy white or black surface. It has a hole that goes through its roughly cuboid body where the handle of a shopping cart would pass through. The core idea is that the device would sanitize the shopping cart handle it’s attached to using UV-C light. And rather than forcing a shopper to take an extra step, SLIBALL can be integrated into the process of claiming a cart right from the start.

Some shopping centers and supermarkets require you to insert a coin to unlock a shopping cart, and this same coin can be used to activate SLIBALL. The device starts sterilizing the handle automatically and can even be slid across the length of the handle to cover all the spots. Once done, the “head” of the device pops up like a mushroom after the rain and returns the coin to the owner in the process. It’s actually a simple concept that few have probably considered, but given our present circumstances, it is an avenue worth investigating. It could even become a profitable business for sanitation device manufacturers, especially as more and more people go back to doing groceries in person.

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This side and coffee tables have sustainability and simplicity ingrained in their DNA

Once upon a time, buying a table involved troublesome and inconvenient shipping arrangements because the furniture either comes pre-assembled or didn’t have any way to disassemble it anyway. These days, however, it has become trendy to buy flat-packed furniture, especially if they come with minimalist designs. These are easier to transport, sometimes by the buyers themselves, and are possible to take apart store away when they’re no longer needed. The trade-off, however, is often the complexity and difficulty of assembling the things on your own. Fortunately, more creative furniture designers have come up with new ways to simplify that process, and these wooden tables demonstrate how an easier process doesn’t exactly make the furniture less stable.

Designer: Ivan Nuño

Thanks to the prevalence of minimalist designs and the popularity of stores like IKEA, it isn’t uncommon these days for many people to prefer tables and chairs that arrive at their doorsteps in pieces. Logistics like transportation and storage can be cheaper, and it’s also not that much work for those already used to putting things together themselves by hand. The latter, however, doesn’t cover the majority of buyers that need simpler steps to follow. Unfortunately, simplicity can sometimes also mean fragility, and some might find their tables loosening in critical areas.

To correct that problem, Studio Nuño designed a new type of joinery that it says reduces the assembly time down to just a few minutes while still maintaining structural strength to bear the weight of everyday use. You simply insert the legs into the slots beneath the tabletop, slide in a supporting piece, and screw that piece down with an Allen wrench. The legs come in three or four distinct pieces for the side table and coffee table, respectively, so there are no confusing angles or combinations to worry about.

Although not an inherent property of flat-pack design, many products that come in this form often have a pinch of sustainable design as well. Studio Nuño, however, takes it to a whole new level by making sure both the product and its packaging are environment-friendly. The wood for the tables, for example, is made from Baltic birch plywood coated with high-pressure laminate made from recycled materials, while the joinery uses recycled steel. The packaging is devoid of single-use plastic, using 100% recycled and biodegradable materials. It even uses eco-friendly tape to keep things together.

Studio Nuño’s tables don’t skimp on the aesthetics either, fully embracing a minimalist design that blends well with any theme you might have running in your home. Simple and sustainable, this coffee and side table pair offers a fresh look at how furniture doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful or sturdy. At the same time, its simple assembly also proves that you don’t have to sweat too much to have a sturdy and reliable table for your use, whatever that may be.

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Meta.Zen playset lets adults calmly build their own miniature tranquil garden

There are different objects and places that have been associated with feelings of peace and calmness, but one of the most iconic ones that span cultures and nations is the carefully designed minimalist Zen garden. Just seeing one, even in a picture, is enough to trigger mental images of peaceful meditation, whether by simply sitting on a spot or raking around sand. Of course, not everyone has space for a real Zen garden at home, and miniature kits can get problematic to maintain because of their use of real sand and, sometimes, real plants. If you’re fine with just the symbolic representations of the principles of Zen, then this sustainable playset for grownups not only gives you the creative freedom to design the Zen garden of your dreams, it even becomes a meditative practice in itself.

Designer: ILSA Yumeng Li and Zongheng Sun (PEAR & MULBERRY)

Puzzle toys and playsets have existed for decades, even centuries, and while the majority of these are designed for younger audiences, there are a few that require a more experienced mind to enjoy. Sometimes a puzzle could be too complicated, or a set might have intricate parts. Some kids might still have a bit of fun with this innovative playset, but it will be adults that will benefit from it the most because it evokes emotions and thoughts that only a stressed adult would be able to appreciate.

Meta.Zen, in a nutshell, lets you put together a Zen garden of your own design. You can make it as simple or as complicated as it can be, limited only by the number of pieces you have at hand. The hexagonal base pieces magnetically attach to one another, making them simple to use even for those with physical handicaps. The magnets are strong enough so that you can even stick the finished garden to a wall to serve as a calming piece of decoration. And since there’s no sand or plants involved, there’s no mess either.

It’s more than just a simple playset, though, and each and every piece is carefully designed with the same meticulous attention to detail that Zen gardeners use. The almost random ridges and valleys of the base tiles can be combined and connected in multiple ways, creating millions of Zen patterns that you can change as your heart desires. The pebbles, stone lamps, and structures that you can place on top also magnetically attach to the intersection of tiles, making it effortless to create any arrangement you could think of. More than just the final result, the process of putting together this playset can become a calming and meditative activity of its own.

And, of course, Meta.Zen also gives peace of mind that your serenity doesn’t come at the cost of the planet’s life. The parts are used using biodegradable PLA based on walnut wood, while only natural fibers like algae and bamboo are used to give the pieces their earthy colors. Each piece is designed to let you see and feel elements of nature on a smaller scale, giving you the freedom to take not only the playset but also your Zen bubble with you wherever you go.

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This air purifier for kids concept puts a friendly face on clean air

Air purifiers, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers are slowly becoming more common in houses these days. The newly-gained awareness that the air we breathe at home may not be as clean as we thought has helped push these appliances into living rooms and bedrooms. And just like many appliances, these come in impersonal and utilitarian designs, often as large cylinders standing in the center of the room. Their presence can be a bit disconcerting or even intimidating to children, encroaching on what they consider to be safe spaces at home. Unfortunately, these machines are seldom designed with kids in mind except for safety purposes, but this air purifier design concept tries to add an emotional element that makes them a more welcome addition to family life.

Designer: Matteo Ercole

It’s almost too easy to simply put a literal face on an appliance to make it look friendlier and then call it a day. That only does the bare minimum and might just confuse kids in the long run. After all, they might expect a smiling face at home to be a new friend, only to be disappointed by the machine’s lack of response. Willy, in contrast, seems to be alive, reacting to the presence of children while it goes about its duties, purifying the air around them.

Technically, Willy doesn’t actually have a face. It has two long slots that seem to resemble eyes and relies on our brains to fill in the rest. This capability, which even kids have, has long been utilized in both product and character designs, giving things a more anthropomorphic appearance by using only the suggestion of facial features. It leaves it to the viewer’s imagination to complete the face to match their personal tastes.

Willy isn’t just a friendly face, though. Those “eyes” are actually its ears, housing microphones that can pick up sound, allowing the head to turn toward its direction. While it doesn’t exactly have any practical utility as far as cleaning the air goes, it makes it seem like the appliance is attentive to the child. It’s as if Willy was an actual robot without going in that design direction.

Of course, it also has the standard air purifier parts, including HEPA H13 filters. Willy’s actual controls are on the top of its head, safely out of small kids’ reach, and its brain, the electronics that drive its functions, are also located there, following its anthropomorphic theme. In terms of technology, the design doesn’t really present anything groundbreaking, but it does give the appliance a more human touch that kids and even some adults will be able to appreciate.

 

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This mouse concept ditches the buttons for a more tactile experience

The computer mouse hasn’t changed its basic design in ages, which also means that the ergonomic problems it had in the past still exist today. There are plenty of new designs and concepts that try to challenge the status quo, but many of these tend to have unfamiliar and sometimes very alien forms. That might be uncomfortable for some people who rely on muscle memory to get things done efficiently. Of course, there’s still plenty of room for improvement even with the more traditional shape of the mouse, and this design concept puts a slightly different twist to the user experience, focusing more on how it would feel under our fingers when you remove the keys and buttons.

Designer: Matteo Ercole

Repetitive strain from using a mouse can come from different motions, though most of the focus is on the bigger movements of the wrist. Our fingers, however, are also quite active when using a mouse, and those could also contribute to eventual injury. That might be especially true if your fingers encounter a lot more resistance from mechanical interfaces like buttons and wheels.

Named “Just another mouse” as a tongue-in-cheek joke, this design concept does away with those buttons and instead presents a device that has a more stylish body and texture. Instead of buttons, the concept utilizes pressure-sensitive areas similar to Apple’s Force Touch trackpad on MacBook. This can expand the number of actions you could use with the mouse or change the gesture completely, like using a slightly deeper press instead of double-clicking. The mouse wheel is also absent, replaced by a touch-sensitive groove that provides less resistance while also giving the finger a more nuanced tactile experience.

The mouse doesn’t have a power switch, either, and it just turns on when a proximity sensor detects a hand on top of it. The internal battery is charged on a wireless dock, similar to how you’d wirelessly charge a smartphone or smartwatch. This further reduces the number of openings and moving parts that could break down after prolonged use.

This concept design doesn’t inherently change the way the mouse looks or functions, but it does open the door for newer experiences, especially when the sense of touch is involved. Rather than typical plastic, the design could use different kinds of materials and textures that give the mouse a bit more flavor, both visually and tactilely. That, in turn, can make the mouse more than just a utilitarian computer accessory but also a beautiful desk decoration when they’re not in use.

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These quirky wall hooks look like squirmy critters crawling on your wall

Minimalist designs often suffer the stigma of being plain, clinical, or boring, as if such designs have to follow rigid forms and a fixed set of drab colors to qualify as minimalist. Of course, the actual interpretation and implementation of minimalist design principles can vary from person to person, and there is no hard rule that prevents injecting a bit of whimsical and eccentric elements into a product. Take, for example, these wall hooks that are nothing more than plainly colored strips of metal but twisted and bent in such a way that they turn any wall into a curious piece of abstract art filled with what looks like creepy crawlies wriggling their way across the room.

Designer: Christian Neumeier

Wall and door hooks often have very utilitarian designs, primarily because they get obscured by things hanging from them most of the time. The times they don’t hold anything often see them blending into the background or hidden behind doors. It’s a missed opportunity, however, to turn them into decorative pieces as well, whether they’re in use or especially when they’re not. Bender is an attempt to remedy that situation, and it does so in a strikingly simple way.

As its name implies, Bender hooks are just powder-coated strips of steel bent in this or that direction, creating a form that you might presume to be unsuitable for its purpose of being a wall hook. But thanks to precise industrial design, the ends and sometimes even the middle of these metal strips instantly become places to hang bags, clothes, and accessories. The hooks come in different sizes but are all simple in form, despite the twists and turns, making them just as space-efficient as regular hooks.

The real pull of Bender is, of course, the creative freedom it gives homeowners in sprucing up their space. Any wall can become not only a wardrobe but also a mural, with these bending critters creating patterns in your design. The hooks come in different colors as well, so you can make the composition as regular or as chaotic as you want. Perhaps you want a more uniform pattern of black and white stripes similar to a zebra, or perhaps you prefer a random kaleidoscopic scattering of hooks as if somebody splattered your wall with gigantic gummy worms.

The one unfortunate factor that could limit your creativity is the fact that you’ll have to drill holes to install these hooks. While it does come with all the screws, dowels, and guides needed to set the hooks up, you can’t change the arrangement on a whim once they’re screwed in place. It might also be a deal-breaker for renters and even some households, leaving them no option but to use dull old wall hooks instead.

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This reusable tissue cleaner concept offers a solution to wet wipes pollution

Since viruses and harmful microorganisms are known to stick to certain surfaces for long periods of time, some people have gotten the habit of wiping down tables, shelves, door handles, and even chairs before using them. While it is definitely a commendable hygienic practice, it has also increased the use of products such as wet wipes. Contrary to popular misconceptions, these aren’t simply “wet tissues” since real tissue paper easily breaks down when wet. Unfortunately, the synthetic materials in wet wipes turn them into environmental hazards in the long run, essentially on the same level as plastics. Rather than discourage a good habit, this concept attacks the problem from a different angle by essentially providing wet wipes that can be cleaned and reused rather than being thrown away all the time.

Designer: Yeounju Lee

Despite their appearance as thick tissues or thin pieces of cloth drenched in disinfectant like alcohol, the majority of wet wipes are actually made partly from polyester or polypropylene fibers, sometimes interwoven with organic fibers like cotton or wood pulp. This means that these wipes don’t actually break down when you flush them down toilets, and definitely not after they’ve reached sewers or other places you might not want to imagine. It can take hundreds of years for these to actually decompose, meanwhile posing a problem, not unlike typical plastics.

The problem is that, like common plastic, wet wipes are convenient. Their small packages can be slipped into bags easily, and they are like a cross between tissue paper and cloth. A wiping cloth would, of course, be more economical and more environment-friendly, but the chore of washing and sanitizing after each use is too high a cost for many people. What if we could automate that last bit almost the same way we automate washing our own clothes? Re:clean is a concept that proposes exactly that, to make single-use wet wipes into reusable wet tissues.

Re:clean is practically an appliance that cleans, disinfects, wets, and dispenses these wet tissues that curiously come in the shape of a circle with a hole in the middle, pretty much like a CD. Used pieces are loaded onto a spindle from the top, while cleaned wet tissues are collected in portable storage boxes that you just pull out and put in a bag, ready to be used at any time. The machine has controls that let the user select the amount of water content the tissues will hold or the number of tissues to be dispensed per box.

It’s definitely a creative way of solving the pollution problem of wet wipes, though some might have misgivings about reusing such materials over and over again. Then again, it’s really no different from washing rags, towels, or chamois, except everything is automated and regulated. Ideally, the wet tissues themselves can be made of more sustainable materials as well, but even if they were of the same composition as wet wipes, delaying their arrival in landfills and oceans can still have a positive impact on the environment.

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This strange-looking plant box uses science to create eerie music

There are people who believe that music can be found in everything, mostly in a figurative sense. Harmony, a word that’s primarily associated with music, can also be found in visual forms. There are also feelings and expressions that can almost come off as musical, while the world is also filled with beats, rhythms, and tones that are like the planet’s natural orchestra. And then there are those seemingly fantastic claims of plants making music of their own. While it isn’t as magical as it might sound, no pun intended, there is indeed a way to hear the invisible sounds that plants make, as demonstrated by this odd box that looks like a prop from a 50s sci-fi show.

Designer: Love Hulten

Plantwave is a rather curious concept that sometimes starts debates among scientists, musicians, and everyone in between. The idea of plants making music might sound like magical mumbo jumbo, but the reality is far simpler and actually less romantic than it would otherwise imply. In a nutshell, it involves biofeedback or gathering biodata from plants, converting electrical signals into beeps, waves, and tones that are configured by a controller. In a plant’s case, it uses the changes in electrical current passing through a plant, which can vary depending on how much water there is inside during its photosynthesis process.

Of course, none of these scientific details are actually visible or even audible to people, and all they will hear and believe is the plant suddenly making noises almost equivalent to music, or at least a very crude form of it. The design of this plant box, however, gives off a science experiment vibe with its knobs and switches, creating an image that is closer to reality than some mystical explanation of the plantwave phenomenon.

The biolab-like Desert Songs utilizes cacti because they have sparse and sporadic activities going inside. Different cactus species exhibit different behaviors, so you can have a variety of signals even within the same plant box. The truly random biofeedback that the plants emit is translated into MIDI signals that are then fed to a Korg NTS-1 synthesizer and “reinterpreted” by a Macrocosm effects device from Hologram Electronics. Topping it off is a MIDI visualizer made to look like a microscopic view of a plant’s chloroplasts, the cells responsible for photosynthesis.

The end result is no less mystifying than if the plants did magically produce music. The eerie waves and beeps emanating from the machine give the sound an almost otherworldly melody, quite befitting of a process most of us know very little of. While it won’t beat even amateur musicians, this audiovisual installation still creates an attention-grabbing and memorable experience, one that will surely spark the imagination of what could be taking place in the plant microcosm.

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This mouse and table clock join to form a cozy egg-shaped decor for your desk

The computer mouse is one of those things that shouldn’t make sense when you think hard about it, and yet it has become a staple of the modern world. Even with laptops that carry touchpads, some people still prefer to use a mouse with a laptop, even if it’s not the most ergonomic thing to do. There have been attempts to change the mouse’s image and design, creating forms that are almost out of this world. This concept design doesn’t stray that far from the traditional shape of the computer peripheral, but it still makes some changes that give it a better aesthetic, especially when it’s paired with its table clock twin.

Designer: Juwon Lee (Dawn BYSJ)

You won’t always be using the mouse all of the time, like when you’ve already stepped away from the desk and have shut down the computer. During these “off times,” the mouse sits pretty much useless on the table, like a mound of plastic that breaks the appealing flatness of the desk’s surface. It wouldn’t be much of a problem if the mouse’s design was something you could call decorative as well, but very few mice are like that.

The SEEK concept design tries to change the identity of the computer mouse a bit by giving it another function even when it’s not in use. The upper surface of the mouse that connects with your hand is covered with a fabric-like material, not unlike those found wrapped around smart speakers. It’s questionable whether using such a material is smart, considering how much dirt and sweat are likely to accumulate there, but it’s hard to deny that it looks stylish. It’s also possible to use some antimicrobial fabric, too, or any other elegant material that looks good and feels good in the hand as well.

While the mouse already looks pretty when left on a desk as normal, its real decorative value comes from joining with its other half. SEEK’s other half is a table clock that stands upright in contrast to the mouse’s horizontal position. The back of the clock is covered with the same fabric material and color as the mouse, while its front has the same terrazzo-like surface as the bottom of the mouse. The embedded monochromatic display gives the clock a minimalist appeal, and like the mouse, it can already stand on its own as a decorative table piece.

When joined together, though, SEEK becomes this curious egg-shaped, fabric-wrapped object that could evoke metaphors on incubation, warmth, patience, and the like. Of course, it’s also a beautiful object that adds a cozy accent to your desk, something that you might want to see after a long day of work or before you start your day. Joining these two halves together could even become a ritual for ending your work day, symbolizing putting a close to the work you’ve done and letting it bear fruit and hatch on the next day.

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This distinctive coffee table blends contrasting elements to give it a unique character

Coffee tables today do more than just hold your coffee or your coffee table books. They have become both literal and figurative centers of a room, providing visual impact through their eye-catching appearances. Some coffee tables grab your attention with their exquisite shapes, while others prefer to do it through remarkable materials. This unique coffee table does both, creating a piece of furniture that could almost be described as sculptural art. What’s more noteworthy, however, is that it uses what seems to be opposing or contrasting materials, giving it a distinct personality that’s like a Yin and Yang of furniture design.

Designer: Donatas Žukauskas

There are some materials, both natural and man-made, that seem to be associated with certain emotions and concepts. Water, for example, can be calming and cleansing, while plastic is soft and pliable. Wood is warm and cozy, while stone, in its many forms, is cold and impersonal. These latter two might seem to stand on opposite ends, but they come together in a harmonious and even artistic way in this sculptural coffee table made of natural wood and a new concrete-like material.

The very shape of the table itself seems to convey this character of combining contrasting elements. The wide, irregularly-shaped wooden top is held up by three conical legs that end in very thin feet that seem to test fate. Its form has elements of both stability and irregularity as if challenging the mind to decide whether the table is steady or is ready to collapse on one end.

What makes this table even more interesting is that its concrete legs aren’t exactly made from actual concrete. Instead, it is a solid yet elastic mass that is actually closer to wood but was designed to look like concrete. It is made from paper mass, which is again the opposite of the rigidity of concrete, but mixed with various other materials to give it the desired texture, water resistance, and rigidity. Fusing this wet mass, which is poured into a mold, with the wood top proved to be a tricky task, but the result was well worth the trouble.

This sculptural coffee table of opposites is definitely a sight to behold in a room, and of course, it’s quite functional, too. So yes, you can place your favorite mug and books on top without fear of breaking down. Its special character, however, doesn’t stop at its aesthetics. Recycled materials were utilized in creating this table, making it a sustainable piece of furniture and sculptural art as well.

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