Photograph Courtesy of Ideo

Ideo Reimagines the Lowly Thermostat

Ideo reimagines the lowly thermostat.

What happens when a couple of designers from one of the most influential design firms on earth take a break from working for clients like Kraft Foods and Samsung to experiment in pure future gazing? You get a concept product like Blow, a minimalist thermostat that you control with your lungs. If the room is too cold, you breathe at the device with your mouth open, as if you were warming your hands in the winter, and the heat comes on. Too hot? Blow with a pursed mouth, as if you were cooling a bowl of soup, to turn on the air-conditioning.

"We were trying to study things that get overlooked," says Ideo designer Martin Bone, noting that he's dismayed by uninspired "everyday things like thermostats, switches, and plugs." His partner on the project, Kara Johnson, says Blow is largely about making our interaction with such objects more human. The pair recently published the product, along with 11 other experiments, in I Miss My Pencil (Chronicle Books).

Although they haven't yet pitched the concept to manufacturers, Johnson says it's "really not that far from reality. It's not complicated from a technological perspective." Rather, it reflects a different way of thinking. As designers, she says, "we're always trying to push the boundaries," and projects like Blow generate ideas "that we're pulling into our client work."

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Photograph Courtesy of Ideo

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  • Alex Cue

    It's much easier to push a button than stand there and blow on an appliance. It's a cool idea, and I love the look, but I want hard controls, please.

  • Brian King

    Interesting take on the thermostat from the design genius at IDEO. Simplicity is key here; cool & innovative way to interact with something that has hardly changed in years. Still as much as I love the design and simplicity I still find myself wanting the physical touch interaction as well. Same with the iPhone/iPod touch I love the design and implementation; although still find myself having difficulty typing on the go.

    Interesting to see if IDEO takes this past proof of concept. Always great to see firms like IDEO and others pushing the limits with great design. Thanks for sharing.