Hot on HuffPost Tech:

See More Stories
AOL Tech

The Week in Design: A 'Thimble' for the Blind, Rethinking the Soda Siphon

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 move from the planning stages to the mass market. But that doesn't mean we can't salivate over their creations, nevertheless.

Getting ready to kick off 2011 at midnight? Too bad that you can't rig all of your electronics to burst into life at the stroke of 12 -- that is, unless you're the ingenious Japanese designer who created a portable, modular system of simple switches that can be controlled via iPhone. And too bad you're not hardcore enough to bootleg your own bubbly, because we stumbled upon a whole slew of students determined to rethink the carbonation experience. Check out our favorite designs of the final week of the year, after the break.

Thimble by Artefact and University of Washington

thimble for the visually impaired
The Thimble, designed by Artefact and the Industrial Design Department at the University of Washington, is yet another interface concept for the visually impaired. (Seriously, what is with designers' obsession with the blind?) The main hardware of the Thimble is an "electro-tactile grid" that rapidly produces and presses Braille characters against the user's finger. Connected via Bluetooth to, say, an iPhone, the Thimble will "read" back tweets, news headlines, and give directions. Say you come upon a non-Braille page, and the Thimble will scan and translate to tactile output. Check out a video of the concept here.

Trangram by Hirotaka Hatayama

Trangram by Hirotaka Hatayama
Trangram is a series of modular, Internet-connected switches that aim for on-the-go home automation. The switches can be either analog or digital (such as an iPhone interface) and connect to both digital or analog devices. You could, for example, hook up one of the output circuits to an alarm clock or lamp, and then retain control over them with a portable on/off switch or a smartphone app. You can even write scripts for the switches, so that you can press an analog button to send a predetermined tweet or text message to a friend. (We're imagining a Life Alert of the future now.) Check out designer Hirotaka Hatayama's demo video here.

Touch Sound Taste: Soda! by Karlsruhe University

soda siphons
DIY soda-making has been all the rage lately -- as though it's somehow healthier to mix and match your own concoction of sugar and/or corn syrup at home, rather than buy a two-liter of Diet Coke. Still, we've totally bought into the trend because making bubbles is 100-percent neat-o, obviously. (As usual for all things high-tech and culinary, we defer to the inimitable Dave Arnold and his depth of knowledge of carbonation.) Students at Germany's Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design also dig bubbles, and came up with various designs for CO2 infusers for the 'Touch Sound Taste: Soda!' competition. We can't list them all here, but check out Designboom's coverage to see the Super Soaker-inspired soda bottle, a bottle that carbonates from below, and a device that can bubble individual glasses, rather than whole bottles.

Motoworkr by Marco Vanella

Motoworkr by Marco Vanella
Marco Vanella's Motoworkr is a lofty idea that designers have been playing with for years. A Motorola tablet replaces a nurse's clipboard, and incorporates some basic diagnostic equipment, to boot. As a 2010 version of the tricorder, the Motoworkr can work as a stethoscope, thermometer or blood pressure cuff, and display a given patient's chart, history, and vital statistics. We're not really sure how the blood pressure cuff or the thermometer might work, but the all-in-one approach is certainly au currant. The sad fact of the matter is that many hospitals in the U.S. are still incredibly reliant on paper records, and the transition to e-records has been long and slow. The only thing keeping tablets like these from ERs is a lot of maddening logistics and red tape.

ORCA by Jon Nguyen

ORCA by Jon Nguyen
This little saw is called the ORCA, but it looks a bit more like a narwhal. It also doesn't really look like any kind of saw we've ever seen; the designer Jon Nguyen commented on Yanko that its curves are intended to appeal to female DIYers. (Obviously, women are terrified of big, scary man-tools, and need Nuvo-style alternatives to typically macho construction equipment.) Regardless of its gender pandering, we do have one big problem with the ORCA: the blade faces toward the user, not away as in a normal jigsaw. This is not a small oversight; a power saw is not an electric knife, and pulling a rapidly plunging blade toward you is a recipe for a missing digit, or a DIY appendectomy.

Tags: Artefact, blind, carbonation, co2, concepts, design, designconcepts, hirotaka hatayama, HirotakaHatayama, hospital, interface, jigsaw, jon nguyen, JonNguyen, karlsruhe university, KarlsruheUniversity, marco vanella, MarcoVanella, medical, motoworkr, orca, power saw, PowerSaw, saw, soda, tablet, thimble, top, trangram, visually impaired, VisuallyImpaired