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The Week in Design: ECG Toasters and Disposable Printers

a selection of this week's designs
The Web is teeming with the unrealized ideas of both students and established designers who set out to produce astonishing renderings and prototypes for unusual products. Unfortunately, due to the lack of time, money, or technology, many of those products never progress from the planning stages to the mass market. But that doesn't mean we can't salivate over them, nevertheless.

This week we were intrigued by plays on classic objects, from pared-down lights equipped with LEDs to cheeky toasters that remind you to get your cholesterol tested. We were unswayed by less thoughtful designs, like the disposable printer cartridges that seek to be green but would end up cramming landfills all their own. Click through to see the best and worst designs of the week.

Bye Bye Bulb by Daniel Michel

Bye Bye Bulb by Daniel Michel
We're seeing this kind of thing more and more lately, but that doesn't diminish the value of ghostly design. As we become increasingly familiar with wire-frame meshes for 3-D prototypes, many designers are looking to strip their creations down to bare silhouettes. Bye Bye Bulb is a range of lamps by Düsseldorf-based Daniel Michel, and they take this minimalist fad to the extreme. In place of the standard incandescent bulb... is nothing. Instead, a 10-watt LED is embedded in the traditional-looking socket, surrounded by a wire-frame "shade." We love it because it has the feel of an industrial-style bulb cage merged with forward-thinking lighting.

Fluid Vase by Kwok Pan Fung

fluid vase by kwok pan fung
3-D printing is just beginning to take hold in the design world, and yet we've already seen so many different variations on a single theme. Take, for example, Kwok Pan Fung's Fluid Vase, which mashes together 3-D prototyping, high-speed cameras and motion-tracking software. Fung angled a high-speed camera at a container as he sloshed water into it. Then, using tracking software, he was able to go through the images, frame by frame, and construct a 3-D mesh from which to build a vase. He'll take the process one step deeper into the digital realm by allowing customers to use a Web-based interface to choose the frame from which he'll craft their vase. Check out a video of the process here.

Toast/E/R by Shay Carmon

Toast/E/R by Shay Carmon
Our editors were torn over Shay Carmon's Toast/E/R, but your writer has the awesome role of declaring this toaster a good design. It's hilarious, and still functional! According to Carmon, you can "revive your old bread" with the trademark peaks and valleys of an ECG readout singed into your slab of carbs. The device is more of a press than a toaster per se, but we think that actually boosts its functionality. (And, in light of our objections to last week's bad toaster design, we're pretty sure that we could fit even one of our fair city's notoriously large bagels in the tray.) Say you want to use Toast/E/R to make a Cuban panino; the built-in reminder might sway you from heaping on that extra layer of ham.

Mutewatch by Mutewatch

mutewatch
Here's a watch that aspires not to tell time, but to simply alert you to important moments. Mutewatch is a "silent alarm in the shape of a vibrating wristband," because you don't always have your smartphone in hand. The blank screen is a bit of a ruse; swiping it with a finger reveals a touchscreen with a timer, clock and alarm. Want to snooze your vibro-larm? Simply pinch the watch to make it stop. This "watch" will soon be out of the prototype phase, and available for sale at a jaw-dropping $260. (Almost three bills for a vibrator? Hey-oh!) The price is the only reason it doesn't fetch a higher ranking among this week's designs.

Flora Remote Control by Khatija Aslam

Flora Remote Control by Khatija Aslam
We don't want to hate on this design too hard, because we feel like its creator Khatija Aslam has her heart in the right place. The Flora Remote Control is a hand-held device that we think is supposed to replace your mouse. This is definitely in fashion with tech designers, as we've seen a number of wireless input devices hit the Net lately. The user employs the central touchscreen as a sort of gesture input, while the outer silicone shell can be pulled and squished to send other commands to your computer. We like the idea! If only it didn't look like a woman's contraceptive device, we might be sold. And the "ergonomic" scalloped sides look less like a new form factor and more like a lump of Play-Doh. We'd like to see the next version, though.

Instant Cartridge Printer by Yuexun Chen and Chia-Chen Hsiao

Instant Cartridge Printer by Yuexun Chen and Chia-Chen Hsiao
Yuexun Chen and Chia-Chen Hsiao's Instant Cartridge Printer is a great idea gone terribly wrong. Their angle: buy only what you need, in the form of disposable ink cartridges designed for a certain number of sheets for a given paper size. They write, "The design could easily buying in the convenience store just like instant camera" [sic throughout]. Okay! But what about the fact that a disposable printer cartridge designed for 12 color photo prints will invariably use different amounts of inks for different photos, either leaving you with not enough or too much ink? Or that, despite the fact that they pack recycled paper, disposable printer cartridges are the exact opposite of the printer industry's goal? A full 350 million standard cartridges are already thrown away each year, and the Instant Cartridge Printers' USB ports and internal batteries make them less than biodegradable. Back to the drawing board, designers.

Tags: 3dPrinter, ByeByeBulb, concept, concepts, DanielMichel, design, DesignConcepts, Disposable, features, FloraRemote, FluidVase, GestureInput, green, InstantCartridgePrinter, KhatijaAslam, KwokPanFung, led, lighting, MotionTracking, mutewatch, PhotoPrinter, remote, ShayCarmon, toaster, top, watch