1st Place Winner
"This idea makes me say 'This is so obvious, why has no one done this?' That's the hallmark of a good design. They combined it with a technical innovation that could dramatically increase safety of repair and increase reliability. That's what great designers do—solve lifecycle problems in intuitive ways that make people's lives better."
Kyle Wiens, challenge judge and CEO of ifixit, commenting on the Repairable Microwave
You walk up to a microwave oven you’ve never seen before, open the door, put your head in, and take a big whiff. How does it smell? Most likely you are imagining something stale and a bit gross. You see, even when users tend to the arduous task of cleaning their microwave ovens, over time, the ovens lose the ability to get totally clean. The junk yard is full of perfectly functional microwaves with service lives cut short simply because their presence was less than fresh.

To combat this phenomenon, make the interior replaceable, or better yet, removable and washable. The Microwave 2.0 has ceramic interior panels that simply slide in and out, allowing the user to keep the interior fresh and sparkly clean with ease.

Now that the user isn’t throwing away the microwave because of a less than pleasant presence, it is more likely to reach a point where it needs repair. Making it possible for the user to fix it on their own would be great, but microwave ovens tend to be the most dangerous appliance to fix in most households. High voltages at potentially very high currents are present when in operation - a deadly combination. And the dangers do not go away when unplugged, as there is a high voltage capacitor that can retain a dangerous charge for a long time after.

The solution is the solid state microwave oven. This technology which has recently been developed by the Chinese consumer electronics giant Midea uses less power in a smaller footprint. Microwave 2.0 capitalizes on the fact there is no magnetron or heavy transformer, so it’s inner elements can be handled safely by its end user.

So this microwave has the physical capability to remain fresh indefinitely and be repaired easily and economically. Is that enough? Thinkers like Jonathan Chapman, author of “Emotionally Durable Design”, say it is not. To truly address the issue of sustainability, we need to delve deeper into the reasons why users part so easily with their products. There is little point into designing physical durability into consumer products if consumers lack the desire to keep them. Objects must be developed which engage users on a deeper and more profound level, delivering intense and sophisticated experiences that slowly penetrate the user’s psyche over longer and more rewarding periods of time.

To address this, the Microwave 2.0 can be upgraded, allowing the user to consume new experiences with the same device. First, the Infigo can be fitted with a camera and a food recognition algorithm, which gets to know the foods we eat and then, using a cloud database with other users, makes suggestions on how to cook or warm them. The second update concerns how we will conform to thinking in unnatural ways when it’s required, but prefer for things to conform to us. In the case of the microwave, we don’t care about the time the food cooks. We care about its temperature. A thermal imaging system senses the temperature of the food and then uses a system to direct microwave energy where it’s needed.