For just about a week now, GE and product development network Quirky have been running an interesting contest — they’ve challenged people to come up with ways to improve everyday objects by making them “smarter with software”. Unlike the traditional Quirky production and development process though, the winning concept will be fashioned into an actual working device by the end of the month.
The problem with so many thoughtful, potentially useful entries is that only one of them will actually make the transition from pitch to product. Now with the selection process closed, TechCrunch has learned that Quirky’s design and engineering team will be developing a smarter… milk jug?
Here’s the concept as GE and Quirky received it:
It may not have been the project that most of us were expecting, but that’s just fine with GE and Quirky. Their aim with this project was to help pull back the curtains on the modern manufacturing techniques and processes that can sometimes keep wannabe makers from chasing their ambitions.
“We’ve embraced the digital side of things and it’s highly stimulating, but not tactile,” said GE Executive Director Linda Boff. “At a very simple level, there is a desire to make things, to hold things in your hand, and [this partnership] is a come-one-come-all invitation to invention.”
Now that the winning idea has been selected, Team Quirky gets to do their thing — between now and May 31, their team of designers and engineers will work alongside the Quirky community to flesh out the concept, finalize the design, and actually build the thing. Average Joes like you and me will actually be able to see this smart milk jug come to life though, as Quirky will begin the build process at the San Francisco Maker Faire later this month.
From a functional perspective, I’m told that the Quirky team will be looking at two general features that they hope to implement in this more modern milk jug. The first is probably the most straightforward — they need to devise a way for the product to detect how, well, funky the milk is as well as a way to notify any potential drinkers. The next focus is how to keep that milk from going bad in the first place, with ideas like a cooling system being tossed around by the team.
Oh, in case you were wondering, among the ideas that almost made the cut were a chair that alerts users when they have bad posture and a crock pot controllable from the web.
While admittedly cool, this shift toward smart objects may seem a bit out of place considering the sort of fare Quirky usually brings to life. To date, their community has jointly created several nifty AC adapters, organization tools, cooking accessories, and this awesome little thing, but there’s been a distinct dearth of completed products that that could be considered “smart.” Bret Kovacs, Quirky’s Head of Marketing tells me that’s no longer the case, at least in the idea submissions process — more and more people are coming up with complex, thoughtful projects.
Got an idea on how to make this the best damned milk jug ever? Mosey on over to Quirky and throw in your two cents — somehow, I think they and the rest of the community could use all the help they can get on this one.