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James Dyson Award 2014 -

The finalists...

James Dyson...and no, that's not the award, but the new 360 Eye Robot Cleaner!

David Wardell

The wait is nearly over and, on the 6th November, the winners of the prestigious Dyson Awards 2014 will be announced...


Now in it's 8th year, the awards celebrate and recognise some of the best student designers, inventors and innovators from around the world.  The brief is straightforward: "Design something that solves a problem... The brief is broad. We’re looking for designers who think differently to create products that work better. Engineers who follow an iterative design process.  Rough and ready prototypes. Products that have a significant and practical purpose, are commercially viable, and are designed with sustainability in mind."  It sounds simple but, in practice, is of course fiendishly difficult.


This is a competition that's really worth entering.  Not only are there generous cash prizes for the winners (and for the University Dept. of the 'International Winner') but the winners will enjoy the cachet (and the publicity) of being recognised by one of the worlds' iconic designers.  The awards are shortlisted by Dyson engineers but James Dyson himself chooses the winner.


As a teaser, Dyson have announced their top 20 finalists who are listed (in no particular order) below.  See if you can pick the winner - we'll bring you the results next month!


James Roberts, Loughborough University


Problem: There are currently 15 million refugees living in camps around the world. 1,000 child births will occur for every 100,000 refugees per year. 185 of these new-borns will die due to the lack of sufficient incubation.


Solution: MOM is an inexpensive, electronically controlled, inflatable incubator constructed to decrease the number of premature child deaths within refugee camps. The incubator provides the same performance as first world incubation systems (stable heat environment, humidification, jaundice lighting) and complies with British incubation standards. The incubator can easily be collapsed for transportation, and electronic components are both reliable and use very little power.

Suncayr, Canada

Derek Jouppi, Rachel Pautler, Andrew Martinko, Chad Sweeting, Hayden Soboleski, University of Waterloo


Problem: Not knowing when it is necessary to reapply sun cream means that people don’t reapply often enough, leaving them with painful burns. Inadequate protection from the sun greatly increases an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer. The current solutions on the market are stickers and wristbands that are uncomfortable and easily fall off.


Solution: Suncayr is a colour changing marker that the user draws on their skin. The ink is UV responsive, meaning that when UV hits the ink, it changes colour - letting the user know that they need to reapply their sunscreen. Suncayr’s pen-like marker is applied directly onto the skin - the user can draw whatever shape they like.

MIITO, Netherlands

Nils Chudy, Design Academy Eindhoven


Problem: Kettles are wastefully designed. The minimum fill line of the majority of kettles is approximately 500ml. This means that if you want one cup of tea (250ml) you waste 50% of the hot water - which means you waste 50% of the energy.


Solution: MIITO heats liquids directly in the vessel to be used, eliminating the heating of excess water. Fill your cup with water, place it onto the induction base and immerse the rod in the liquid. The induction base heats the rod, which then heats the liquid surrounding it. MIITO works with non-ferrous vessels of any size. It can also heat your soup or milk for a coffee.

QOLO, Japan

洋丞 江口 and Yusuke Kiyotani, University of Tsukuba


Problem: While wheelchairs offer disabled people a means of getting around, they are still deprived of physical freedom. Standing up from a chair, moving to another place, and then sitting down again; preparing food on kitchen worktops; looking for a book in the library. These are simple behaviours, but not possible for wheelchair-bound individuals.


Solution: QOLO is a personal vehicle that restores three daily locomotion functions that people with disability in lower limbs are unable to enjoy: standing up from a chair, locomotion with upright posture, and sitting down on a chair. Electric motors are heavy and expensive if the postural transition is to be assisted electrically. So QOLO uses the upper body weight of the user to control passive electrical parts enabling them to sit up and down. For upright locomotion, the user can move forward simply by tilting their upper body forward, and turn in any direction by twisting the upper body in that direction.

Moveker C1, Spain

Sebastian Llao Dias, Universidad de Oviedo


Problem: Children, especially those with muscular dystrophy, can move all their limbs but may not have sufficient strength to use a normal bicycle.


Solution: Moveker C1 is an alternative vehicle that can also be used by people who have no mobility in the lower stem as an alternative to the traditional wheelchair. The use of gears and the momentum generated by levers means that that you can go further, faster and with less effort. The use of levers also reduces strain on the shoulders, meaning injuries are less likely. And it also means that there is no need to touch dirty wheels. The large wheels are situated to the front of the chair, rather than the back, reducing the size of the chair as well as its turning circle. 


Bruise Team, Royal College of Art


Problem: Athletes who have reduced or no sensation in a part of their body (e.g. Paraplegics), can struggle with detecting injuries. It can be very difficult to differentiate between a bruise and a more serious injury. Visual symptoms also show up slowly for people with paralysis because of poor circulation. Consequently, injuries can easily be left unnoticed. 


Solution: BRUISE is a smart injury detection suit for disabled athletes with loss of sensation. It applies a recyclable pressure-sensitive film to indicate the severity of injuries. High risk areas are covered with disposable, made-to-fit film sheet inserts. If an area is excessively stressed during an accident, the film will irreversibly change colour. 

Anchor 2

EyeCheck, Canada

Ashutosh Syal and Daxal Desai, University of Waterloo


Problem: For hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, obtaining clear vision means going to an eye camp, where highly-trained volunteers can assess vision. Some do not attempt the journey to eye camps because they cannot afford to or the journey is too arduous. Others return without even being assessed. Prescriptions are the only obstacle to clear vision for these people, as the cost of creating glasses has become so affordable. Existing attempts to serve these people have not made their mark. They are expensive, bulky or require too much user input.


Solution: EyeCheck solves the problem of providing prescriptions using a smartphone app, standalone camera and server-side image processing. The app scans a long queue of people, pointing out those with healthy vision, and those who need urgent attention. For those with vision problems, a standalone camera is used to provide a prescription. The two devices work by shining different kinds light into the eyes and analyzing the reflections that come back. This is an automatic, portable, easy solution to eye prescriptions.

Spokefuge, UK

Jack Trew, Birmingham City University


Problem: Around the globe, over two billion people are affected by anaemia: it is the largest nutritional disorder in the world. 30% of all humans on Earth are thought to be anaemic. However, diagnosing anaemia can be difficult without the appropriate skill.


Solution: Spokefuge is a low-tech alternative to a centrifuge used to diagnose anaemic patients in rural developing countries. Once sufficient blood samples are collected into the provided capillary tubes, they are placed in a rubber casing, inserted into the pivoting centrifugal ‘arm’ and sealed air-tight with a lid. Once a balanced number of devices have been attached to the rear bicycle spokes, the bicycle can be ridden in a fixed or upside down position for approximately 10 minutes until the blood sample begins to separate. This simple device has the potential to replicate the results produced by an expensive electric centrifuge in areas that are too underdeveloped or remote for modern medical equipment to be used.

HAND, Singapore

Raymond Hon and Loren Lim, National University of Singapore


Problem: Before a surgeon is able to perform surgical procedures, they usually attend a course which teaches them the knowledge required for the surgery through a textbook. Then, they watch a senior surgeon perform the surgery for a few times, before performing it on an actual patient. Practice and observation is essential, but in some cases it can be difficult to achieve.


Solution: HAND is a hand surgery simulator that it used to teach young surgeons surgical procedures such as syndactyly release and z-plasty. It provides training in processes like planning, incising and suturing. HAND features the key landmarks found on the human hand, like knuckles and joints, to be used in the planning stage of the surgical procedure. This prepares surgeons to optimize skin use during the actual operation and minimize skin deficit, which in turn reduces the amount of grafting required.

Luke Stairwalker, Germany

Alexander Abele, HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd


Problem: Elderly and disabled people struggle to walk up and down the stairs without support from others. Elderly people in particular suffer from chronic knee issues, and rely on handrails to relieve the burden on their knees. But standard handrails are uncomfortable and don’t support walking as well as they could.


Solution: Luke Stairwalker is a support device for elderly or disabled people who have problems climbing stairs. It attaches to handrails, and the user holds on to it while climbing the stairs. If they slip, a mechanism contained in the device means that it holds its position, supporting the user, rather than slipping back down the handrail.  Luke Stairwalker also includes an optional backrest so that the user can comfortably pause their ascent or descent if necessary.  In contrast to traditional stair lifts, Luke Stairwalker can be installed in small staircases without the need for reconstruction. As a result Luke Stairwalker can be installed on multiple stairs in households or public spaces, for a significantly lower price than conventional systems.

Remora, Spain

Alejandro Plasencia, Elisava


Problem: Abandoned fishing nets are a key contributor to the 100 million tons of waste that float in the sea. Before decomposing into thousands of plastic bits, these "ghost nets" carry on capturing fish and marine mammals. This is a clear threat to the environment, but also an issue for the fishing industry, as ghost nets reduce quantities of fish.


Solution: Remora consists of 4 elements: a purse net, RFID Tags, an RFID reader and an app for smartphones. These four elements work together to reduce the impact of industrial fishing.


The new net mixes polyethylene with d2w® additive so it starts biodegrading after four years - the end of its life cycle. RFID tags that grip to the net are counted by an RFID reader, allowing it to know if pieces of the net are missing. After net retrieval fishermen receive a report from the app where they can check the missing pieces of net and intervene adequately to fix the problem instead of searching manually. If pieces of plastic remain in the sea, they can be retrieved, or the co-ordinates of the ripped net are shared with net recycling organisations like Healthy Seas Org. As well as reducing plastic waste, Remora offers a life cycle that saves 54% of energy per net. This is achieved in lots of ways, including fewer staff on board the boat, a reduced number of helicopter transfers of net-makers from the dock to the boat, less waste dumped in the sea, reduced search time for waste, and less CO2 emissions during manufacture comparing to a conventional net.  

Vanguard 3D, New Zealand

William Nicholson, Massey School of Design


Problem: 3D printing technology has many advantages over traditional manufacture. These include the concept of ‘complexity for free’ and a new ability to produce mass customized, bulk manufactured products. But despite the fact that this technology is capable of manufacturing far more complex objects at little to no extra cost and with the ability of mass customization, we are still designing for traditional manufacture methods.


Solution: Vanguard 3D uses a cement and expanding foam matrix to print three dimensional structures, enabling limitless design and manufacture. Vanguard 3D features two units: a print unit which controls the output of print material, and a pump unit which houses the power source and material supply. The extrusion (output) head consists of three nozzles: two foam and one cement nozzle. Foam leaves the two outer nozzles: the distance between these can be adjusted to modify the print width. Cement leaves via the central nozzle. The print system and pump units are mobile, meaning that Vanguard 3D can travel across any terrain, to print any structure.  


祥平 菅原,

Kuwasawa Design School


Problem: In ageing societies, the number of walking disabilities is increasing and in order to recover walking ability, rehabilitation is necessary. Currently orthoses can be used to support knee joints and prevent buckling in severe patients – but this is not an ideal rehabilitation method since the muscle relies on the orthosis and does not need to support the weight of the body. Several robotic rehabilitation devices have been designed to solve this problem but are not widely used because of their cost, size and complexity.


Solution: Raplus is a device attached to conventional rehabilitation orthoses that assists movement of the knee. The device is light-weight and small, and supports only 50% of the maximum force a knee can generate. Whilst in use, Raplus detects the walking pattern by using an accelerometer. In the supporting phase, it generates assisting force to prevent knee buckling, and during the swing phase it compensates for friction and encourages the natural swinging motion of the knee.  

Fontus, Austria

Kristof Retezar, Angewandte Wien


Problem: According to UN statistics, more than 2 billion people in more than 40 countries live in regions with water scarcity. In 2030, 47% of the world´s population will be living in areas of high water stress. Water scarcity may be the most underestimated resource issue facing the world today.


Solution: Fontus is a self-filling water bottle for your bicycle. This device collects the moisture contained in the air, condenses it and stores it as safe drinking water. Powered by solar cells, it can harvest up to 0.5 litres of water in an hour under the right climatic conditions.


Fontus has a small cooler installed in its centre. This cooler is divided in two: when powered by electricity, the upper side cools down and the bottom side gets hot. Air enters the bottom chamber at high speed when the bike is moving, cooling the hot side down. When air enters the upper chamber it is stopped by non-linearly perforated walls, reducing its speed in order to give the air time to lose its water molecules. Droplets flow through a pipe into the water bottle. The bottle can then be turned to a vertical position and removed.

Bump Mark, UK

Solveiga Pakstaite, Brunel University


Problem: Printed expiry dates are inaccurate leading to perfectly fresh food being thrown away.


Solution: Using gelatine to model the decay process of food, Bump Mark is able to tell you exactly the condition your food is in, simply by running your finger over the label. If it’s smooth, then you’re good to go, but if you start to feel bumps, be cautious. The food has started degrading. Bump Mark consists of gelatine set over a bumpy plastic sheet. Because jelly is solid when set, the bumps cannot be felt at first. However, gelatine is protein, so it decays at the same rate as protein-based foods. As the gelatine decays, it becomes a liquid meaning the bumps underneath can be felt, letting you know that it has expired.

Packtasche, Austria

Matthias Lechner & Philipp Moherndl, TU Wien


Problem: With no emissions and good for your health, the bicycle could be the perfect means of travelling through cities and the countryside alike. But it is very difficult to safely transport large or heavy goods by bicycle.


Solution: Packtasche is a bag for bikes that allows the user to transport larger items more easily. It is made of cardboard – a stable but light material and easily recyclable. The bag is foldable – so it can be compressed down for pedestrian mode, and expanded to carry shopping. It sits across the rack on the bike’s rear wheel for transportation.


Ken Nakagaki, Keio University


Problem: Currently, people use stationary such as rulers or compasses to draw precise figures by hand. As computers have developed, CAD software has enabled us to draw precise figures and duplicate them easily on the display. But these systems lack the intuitiveness of drawing on physical paper. Drawing needs to include the advantages of both the digital and manual methods.


Solution: COMP*PASS is a drawing tool that can draw various kinds of figures on physical papers. By regulating the radius of the pen, users can draw digitally controlled figures, just by twisting. And by using the ability of a standard compass to measure distances, COMP*PASS enables users to record and duplicate figures. The drawing supports functions of CAD systems, releasing figures seamlessly from displays to the physical environment.

Uflex – compresse, France

Julian Lois and Ines le Bihan, L'ecole de design Nantes


Problem: In cases of a severe injury to a critical artery, if pressure is not quickly applied it can take just few minutes to bleed to death. During this time, blood pressure drops, heart rate increases and you can go into shock. But if you injure yourself when alone, you may not be able to use both hands to dress your wound. Current emergency kits do not cater to this need. 


Solution: Uflex is an all-in-one self-inflating compression gauze that can be quickly applied by the injured party with only one hand. Once applied, Uflex inflates and maintains pressure to stop haemorrhaging. Uflex fits in most emergency kits and is ideal for outdoor activities.

Flipod, Singapore

Chow Wai Tung Eason, National University of Singapore


Problem: Many non-ambulant patients have to be rotated manually in bed by their caretakers in order to relieve bed sores and improve breathing. This significantly increases the burden on the caretaker, and means their sleep is very disrupted. The current solution offers a bed frame design that flips the patient's body mechanically, but this requires the user to undergo training because of the abrupt rotation method and it is also too bulky and expensive for most patients.


Solution: Flipod removes the need for manual body rotations for non-ambulant patients. Inflated air bags move the person onto their side with an intuitive pulsating inflation sequence. These pulsating inflations simulate dynamic muscle movement.  The air bags can also be positioned specifically to relieve the user's pressure points, providing the optimized relief of bed sores for patients with Scoliosis.

Customizable, adjustable eyeglasses for the developing world, USA

Nathan Brajer and Evan Madill, Washington University in St Louis


Problem: Over 700 million people in developing countries have vision loss that could be resolved with a pair of glasses, resulting in well over $200 billion dollars of lost economic output every year.


Solution: Nathan Brajer and Evan Madill have developed low-cost, adjustable glasses that allow users to determine their own prescription strength and to customize frames to their specifications and aesthetic preferences. The design uses three simple, decoupled components that can be assembled by hand at their point of use, reducing shipping volumes and simplifying the distribution process. The ability to manipulate both frame size and prescription strength allows a standard set of materials to be used. In addition to standard eyeglass lenses, the glasses are composed of 18-gauge insulated copper wire and two 3D-printed plastic lens holders. The lens holders can be printed in a variety of colors, allowing users to customize the colour of their frames.

For more information:

Further Reading:


Reaping the Whirlwind - David Wardell charts the rise of James Dyson


Cleaning Up! - The first Dyson robot cleaner - DC06


C'mon Suckers! - Blog Post, 5th September 2014



European Inventor Awards 2014



Announced on 6th November 2014 - And the Winner is....


Go to the Inventricity Blog Post

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