At the second annual Greener Gadgets Conference in New York, the design competition was almost as notable for the gadgets that didn’t make the cut as for the ones that did. Note the Jiggy Bed, which promises to (you guessed it) "convert love into electricity," the Zigarator, a personal cigarette incinerator, and even a device that looks like a leaf and turns different colors to indicate the health of a plant. As moderator Allan Chochinov deadpanned: "I already have a plant health indicator. It’s called the plant."
The audience was pretty merciless, too. During a discussion of the Laundry Pod, a portable hand-operated washing machine, a Brit in the row behind me claimed he could perform the same operation, "with a bucket and some soapy water." Not to mention that some MIT students may have one-upped the Pod with a bicycle-powered device that could work in the third world.
But without much further ado, here are five of the coolest gadgets to come out of the competition:
This building-wide intercom system is a bit like Craigslist—for your apartment. Geared toward the urban set, tenants would be able to ask other neighbors for things (a screwdriver, maybe some eggs or sugar) and advertise services like car sharing or free-cycling (giving away unwanted items for free). As a side bonus, you might even meet the neighbors, finally.
Several gadgets were focused on raising awareness of personal energy consumption, and this was one of the best. To use energy—for powering your TV or laptop, for instance—you have to put coins into the piggy bank. It’s clever, adorable, and seems like a perfect way to educate kids about the importance of energy conservation. Adults too, come to think of it.
Indoor Drying Rack
Dryers use up a huge amount of energy, and yet the average household temperature can do the same job in a day or so at no extra cost. Enter this aesthetically pleasing drying rack, which attaches to the wall. A clothesline may be able to do the same job, but not with anywhere near as much class.
This device projects a thermal image onto surfaces to enable users to see where heat is being lost (especially around windows and doors). Keynote speaker, design competition panelist, and all-around genius Saul Griffith pointed out that, "the majority of energy wasted in the house is through lost heat." Although this device won't insulate your windows, it can tell you where to start.
This is a modified version of Kill-a-Watt, which publishes your energy consumption wirelessly. This Twitter-connected device won first prize (and $3,000) not only for its originality, but because it’s a functioning prototype that is already being tested. The designers hope to inspire friendly competitions for low-energy usage—because you aren't competitive enough already!