Philips Digital Photo Display
Chan could scarcely take his eyes off Philips’s frame for showing digital pictures. It takes simply a memory card to display a single photo, thumbnail, or slideshow presentation. The frame is made of injection-molded plastic, with a stand of die-cast metal, and runs on AC or battery power. “It’s not a breakthrough, but it humanizes technology in the home,” Chan said. “It’s about memory.”
Handycam HDR-HC1 Video Camera
It was inevitable that high-definition recording would boil down to a thing so small, but it didn’t have to be so elegant. For its Handycam HDR-HC1, Sony molded the camera to have a natural grip and made the buttons and switches—for functions not accessible on the LED screen—direct but unobtrusive. “This high-def camcorder is just over 7 inches long,” Robischon said. “Granted, it’s only 3 megapixels. But it makes you want to pick it up and start recording.”
American Red Cross Preparedness Starter Kit
You can only hope you’ll never need this neat plastic box of emergency supplies. Designed by Target in partnership with Brooklyn industrial designer Klaus Rosburg, it contains first-aid items, a blanket, poncho, flashlight, radio, batteries, masks, and even a kid’s coloring book and crayons. Jay gave it props for organization. Robischon found “a lot of value” inside for $30. Chan, unfortunately, injured his finger trying to open it. “It’s a good approach,” he said, “but the execution is not there.”
VPL-VW100 High-Definition Video Projector
Clean and cool, Sony’s newest high-def projector for home theaters carries three 1,920-by-1,080-pixel display panels to give images amazing resolution. Its muted profile and recessive exterior colors are typical of Sony projectors in their ability to fit, Zelig-like, into any kind of decor. The frame’s molding streamlines the input and output ports, and the side positioning of the lamp’s access panel makes it easy to change the lamp after the unit has been installed on the ceiling—though Robischon saw no need to hide its beauty that way. “The feature set on this projector is hugely impressive, considering the price,” he said. “Its predecessor was $30,000, and this one is going for $10,000.”
Twist ‘n Loc
Ziploc extends its formidable food-storage franchise with these polypropylene containers, designed by Brooks Stevens Design in Grafton, Wisconsin. Available in pint and quart sizes, they’re built to seal tightly with a screw-top lid for carrying and storing solids or liquids. You can bet the lids won’t peel off in your bag. The containers are safe for the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher, and one lid fits both sizes. “I have a hard time believing that somebody hasn’t done this already,” said Jay.
The dual jaws that form the figure eight of this tool, designed by Progressive International in Kent, Washington, give extra leverage for opening several sizes of stubbornly screwed-on bottle or jar lids, pull tabs, and bottle caps. A ripper tucked inside one end slices through bags and safety seals. The polycarbonate outer grip has a Santoprene lining; the smaller jaw has stainless-steel teeth. “It’s an elegant little design,” Jay said. “It has a variety of uses, as opposed to your basic can opener.”
Oval LED Flashlight
Better to light two beams than to curse your conventional stick flashlight. Jackson, Wyoming-based Gelb Design’s Oval flashlight illuminates the ground below with one beam and the path ahead with another. Its lightweight polymer shell creates a natural grip to forestall fatigue and houses the batteries below the hand to help balance the weight. The switch also allows you to shine the front beam only. “It’s about where you are—and where you’re going,” Jay said, as if coining a motto. “It’s got great function,” Robischon observed.
Mimoco puts the fun in function with these extragalactic critters disguised as USB flash drives by the Portland, Oregon-based designer Baron Brandt. The back story goes that a race of data-starved refugees from the planet Blooh came to Earth seeking nourishment in the form of personal data. “Talk about humanizing technology,” Robischon said. Each bot-onality is conceived by an artist and produced in limited runs. Collect them all—while they last, that is.
Birkis Pro Clog
San Francisco’s Fuseproject designed Birkenstock’s slip-on clogs to be made from a single piece of rubber elastomer. They’re just right for the hard-core gardener who lacks the sense to come in from the rain. The sole’s honeycomb pattern protects against slipping and directs water away from the shoe. And the toes are reinforced against insults. The jury praised the execution—as far as they could assess it from a photograph. “Maybe it’s more comfortable on the foot,” Jay ventured. “But I don’t know if it feels different on the inside.”
Paint Buddy Touch-Up Tool
Every household should have an arsenal of these tools—one for every color of the house. Designed by Beyond Design Inc. in Chicago for the Shur-Line Newell Rubbermaid Co., the Paint Buddy stores paints in small batches for quickly covering over scuffs and dings. An airtight lid keeps the paint fresh, and the replaceable roller promises easy application without unsightly brush marks. “You can have this instead of buckets of paint sitting around,” Jay said.
YSP-1000 Digital Sound Projector
From this deceptively trim unit by Yamaha come layers of audio that surround the listener, without multiple speaker boxes. The projector simultaneously sends out up to five channels of sound focused into beams—left, right, straight ahead, and in two directions to reflect off opposite walls—in a game of audio billiards. Less than 5 inches deep, the unit can be mounted on a rack or into a wall. “It’s clean and versatile,” Chan said. “And its form is very distinctive.”
2 Seconds Quechua Flash Tent
In old cartoons, the cat eats one of these things and turns into a Macy’s parade float. All you do is throw Decathlon’s Quechua tent in the air, and it opens before it hits the dirt by virtue of fiberglass spring hoops. Six pegs in the ground, and it’s dome sweet dome. The polyester tent has a double roof and sleeps two. Chan said it didn’t look compact enough for hiking, but added that “it’s fun just to toss in the air and watch it pop open and set itself up.”
Nearly every feature of these Nike shoes, which come in several colors and in high-top or low-top models, is said to cut consumption and waste by roughly one-third. The injection molding of the Phylon sole reduces material use, and the upper consists of but a single leather layer, with laces made from hemp and reclaimed fibers. Labels and logos are printed or embossed rather than applied as extraneous material. “But tell me where to buy it,” Chan challenged. Jay praised the shoes’ distinctive vocabulary, while Robischon asked, “Why couldn’t they have done this with their Nike Air line?”
Voce Violin Shoulder Rest
Lyrical, really. The Voce shoulder rest, which DW Product Development of Ottawa designed for Kun, will save countless clavicles in the string section. The device helps violinists and violists avoid hiking their shoulder to bring the instrument closer to their jaw. The jury was enamored of the product’s specificity as much as its lightweight materials: namely, the aerospace-grade carbon-fiber body and nonslip foam on the shoulder surface. The clamps that grip the instrument collapse to help fit Voce into a violin or viola case, but their appearance turned out to be the device’s one discredit. “Most of it is fantastic, very high-tech,” Chan said. “Then you have this plastic integration of the clamps. It’s not a complete story.”
With a flip and lock of its molded plastic chassis, this starter tricycle for 2- to 4-year-olds trades up to a chopper for 4- to 7-year-olds. Designed by Brandscope, it’s the first plastic trike in Radio Flyer’s 85-year history. In chopper mode, the seat back adjusts to accommodate a kid’s growth, and the wheels’ rubber tread caps enhance traction. “It’s unmatched in the marketplace,” said Jay, who also appreciated that a heritage brand like Radio Flyer designed something completely new. “Kids can use it until they get to a training bicycle,” Robischon said. “It’s sturdy enough.”
W Line Women’s Tennis Racquet
Wilson claims its racquet, designed jointly by Saud Khazal at Wilson and Herbst LaZar Bell in Chicago, is the first specifically tailored for women. The designers cite as its main innovations “bold” graphics, a smooth transition between head and handle, and a “new throat design offering greater strength and stability.” The jury found the product attractive, and nodded familiarly at its claim of a bigger sweet spot. “They all say they have a bigger sweet spot,” Robischon noted.
Without actually seeing this fridge in person, the jury lauded the looks and organization of Rio designer Guto Indio da Costa’s appliance for General Electric. The integrated handle and a digital control panel that lies flush with the face streamline the profile. Inside, the drawers and shelves are modular, and ice falls into a drawer you can carry off. “Many smart details,” said Robischon. “Looks uncluttered and feels fresh.”
P3 Carbon Bicycle
It’s hard to argue with 12 professional racing wins, two of them in the Ironman triathlon. Cervelo calls the P3 its most advanced time-trial cycle. The carbon fiber of the body allows for molding shapes that alloys can’t achieve. The head tube’s streamlined form, along with the skinny seat post, make for a faster, more comfortable ride, as do the internally routed cables and the curved seat tube, which shields one-quarter of the rear wheel from the wind. Alas, the jury saw only photos, which “don’t give you a sense of just how thin that frame is,” Robischon said. “This screams aerodynamics.”
Micro Hard Drive
This little powerhouse, designed by New York’s Smart Design for Imation, claims to have the world’s tiniest hard drive—smaller than a quarter—which holds either 2 or 4 gigabytes of data. The end of its flexible elastomer USB connector loops back around to the nickel-plated brass body to render a padlock form. High security—get it? “It’s clean and versatile,” Chan said, “and the form is distinctive.”
FREE.1 Skype USB Phone
Designed by Xrange in Taiwan for Ipevo, FREE.1 facilitates the fun of sticking it to the telecom oligarchs with no-cost Internet phone service. Rather than using the PC itself as a halting cyberphone, this device offers a more familiar keypad interface for Skype, the free voice-over-Internet software. “The buttons on this phone are tailor-made for the Skype experience,” Robischon said, “which takes a lot of the guesswork out of placing calls via a PC or Mac.” A single button calls up a Skype window, and toggle and scroll commands make searching through contact lists a breeze. The phone’s dimensions yield a comfortable object to hold during those endless calls and one slim enough to carry with a laptop.
Mile High Mini Kit
Though marketed for high-altitude flings, you never know when you’re going to need one of these. In a zippered Neoprene case inspired by airline freebies, you get a small vibrator, condoms, lubricant, and a mirror. The whole package fits in your palm. Oro-Design of Philadelphia developed the kit, lending it enough discretion to make it salable in hotel gift shops to those who would never enter a sex-toy store. “Pack Light, Pet Heavy,” urges the motto. “Humor! Practicality!” Jay said. “We need more romance in our lives.”
60-Sheet Professional “2000” Desktop Stapler
In developing this heavy-duty device for PaperPro, the designers at WorkTools in Chatsworth, California, merged a staple gun with a typical desktop stapler. The handle floating above the head gives powerful leverage for driving a staple through a big stack of papers with one hand tied behind your back. Chan thought the mechanics were excellent but liked the design somewhat less. Jay said: “It’s not as gorgeous as it could be, but it’s extremely well-functioning.” Small windows let you know when the stapler needs reloading, and a hollow section in the base makes it easy to pick up from the bottom.
Magnito Salt and Pepper Shaker Set
Designed by Josh Owen of Philadelphia for Kikkerland Design, this set resembles a plaything. But its two soft plastic halves, joined by magnets, pull apart (looking a bit like defibrillator paddles) to reveal shakers—one for salt, one for pepper. The jurors were concerned about an awkward loss of seasonings when the halves divide but were ultimately won over by the product’s sensuous form. “Life is confused,” Chan lamented. “Make it whimsical.”
SleekStor Collapsible Measuring Cups
Leave it to Seattle’s Chef’n Corp. to try to improve on one of the simplest kitchen tools and succeed. These colorful, flexible silicone cups with glass-filled nylon handles pop open like old top hats to provide standard cooking measurements, even for substances as hot as 400 degrees Fahrenheit. They flatten easily to store in a fraction of the space conventional measuring cups occupy. “I love that it’s collapsible, easy to clean, and color-coded,” Chan said. Robischon liked that it has a long life and “a nice big graphic to tell you whether it’s a quarter- or half-cup.”