It’s something of a paradox: Star Trekand its legion of fans have long been waved off as the epitome of marginal nerdom, but few cultural wellsprings have fed our future so thoroughly as Gene Roddenberry’s utopian space epic. To wit: The influential Electrolux Design Lab awards were named last week, and most of the winners look like they could have been swiped straight from the Enterprise.
The theme was #FutureHome, and apparently the future of our homes is the bridge of that far-flung starship. Exhibit A: Star Trek launched in 1966, and we’re still trying to replicate that fantasitcal food replicator technology. The 2nd prize went to a concept design called the Atomium, a “3D printer that uses molecular ingredients to construct food layer by layer.”
Having food materialize out of thin air is a dream that predates Star Trek—Jules Verne wanted to manufacture “nutritious air” over a hundred years ago—but the replicator has proved our most enduring modern cultural touchstone for the technology. It’s the one item future-leaning designers are clearly and consciously aping.
We couldn’t talk Star Trek without holograms, of course. So here’s Global Chef, “a kitchen appliance that brings people together all across the world by using laser hologram technology.” It’s just like cooking on the Holodeck.
It’s also weird. These are the cutting edge design technologies that are winning awards in 2013. So why do we want our homes to look like a spaceship anyway? Do we? Or is this just the detritus of the most powerful sci-fi dream of the second half of the 20th century?
Maybe. But the future we’re imagining beyond the safety of Star Trek hominess is a little unnerving. Here, for instance, is the winner of Design Lab 2013: The Mab. It’s basically a fleet of tiny insect drones that clean your apartment.