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The Week In Design: The 'Tron' Room at The Ice Hotel, A Robot Therapist on Your Wrist

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.

As the quintessential sci-fi gamer film, 'Tron's' place in the aesthetic subconscious of the post-boomer generations is inspiring designers to do crazy things with furniture and architecture. That's why grownups with presumably lucrative jobs will want to stay inside a hotel room made of ice and resembling the 'Tron' landscape, or shell out who knows how many thousands for Cappellini's 'Tron' chair. The kid in us was fascinated by the game-inspired designs, but also stumbled upon a creepy-cute robot that is supposed to help assuage our fears. Can its arachnoid nuzzlings quell our anxiety about how we're going to pay for the three nights we just booked at the Ice Hotel? Find out after the break.

Legacy of the River by Extreme Design

legacy of the river
Why is the imminent release of 'Tron: Legacy' making such a huge impact on the design world? Last week we showed you Cappellini and Dror's 'Tron'-inspired chair, and now we've stumbled upon this installation/hotel room by the U.K.-based (and aptly named) Extreme Design. For the Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden (yes, it really is an entire hotel made of ice), the duo at Extreme created an art suite called 'Legacy of the River,' which employs "futuristic lighting technologies that use negligible amounts of energy" (LEDs?) and a hell of a lot of frozen water. If you're feeling extra masochistic and/or cold-blooded, the art suite's available to stay in from around 4,300 to 6,400 SEK (about $625 to $931) per night. See a time-lapse video of Extreme's installation here.

Octave by sequoia-studio

Octave by sequoia-studio
It's not easy to make a hard drive sexy. (A few have been able to accomplish the task, and it took a mind no less than Philippe Starck to succeed.) But, as a box that frequently just sits and gathers dust, there's simply no reason not to make it nice, while still thinking about its overall function. Sequoia-studio's concept for LaCie is the Octave, and its arching silhouette and Swiss cheese holes aren't just for show. Providing the box with exceptional ventilation, the arch also allows two Octaves to be connected without any loss of cooling airflow, or good looks.

Inconspicuous Matter by Celine Marcq

Inconspicuous Matter by Celine Marcq
Designer Celine Marcq is worried about how much energy you're using. Rather, she's worried that you're not aware of the energy you use, hidden away as an intangible. Her Inconspicuous Matter explorations into consumption visualization have resulted in, well, electronic wallpaper. "Considering textile and material design as a sensitive interface for reflection and thoughtful participation, the aim of this project is to visualize electrical energy flows, consequently demanding the viewers' attention and potentially generating their awareness," she writes on her site. See a video of the project here.

Ref by Jens Dyvik

Ref by Jens Dyvik
This little alien robot is named Ref, and he's your therapy buddy. Created by Jens Devik, Ref is intended to help patients by monitoring their pulses and responding to their emotions with reassuring hugs and nuzzles. According to Devik, "If the user is stressed, its head is raised and its tail straight. If the user is in balance, its head rests on the users arm and its tail curls up... Ref can also coach the user in practicing a mind balancing breathing pattern." As chronically anxious New Yorkers, we like the idea of a pat-you-on-the-back 'bot. But FastCoDesign's Suzanne Labarre sums up our estimation perfectly: "Man, why does the thing have to look like a murderous scorpion? (That tail, yikes!) We imagine this is what you'd end up with if David Cronenberg got into the therapy business." Death to the demoness Allegra Geller, we guess.

Dust Ball by Dave Hakkens

Dust Ball by Dave Hakkens
Some of the Switched crew has totally bought into the robotic vacuum revolution, but your writer's stayed away. Besides being bulky and ugly as sin, they're still more expensive than your standard suck machine, frequently require maintenance and -- despite their manufacturers spinning fantastic yarns about how you can have your very own Jetsons' Rosie -- they often require supervision. What's the point? Dave Hakken's Dust Ball attempts to solve our first gripe, looking like the most design-friendly spore you've ever seen. Dual axes allow Dust Ball to roll wheel-free, sucking up dirt and returning to its charging station when it's full. (See a video of the concept here.) But someone should probably tell Hakken that vacuums aren't spherical for a reason, and that this filthy, right-angled world is flanked by corners into which Dust Ball may never fit.

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