This past weekend, the GE FirstBuild microfactory in Louisville, Kentucky, played host to the largest ever hack-a-thon devoted to home appliances.
The event challenged participants to hack and build appliance innovation for the home of the future using GE's appliance repertoire and a bevy of manufacturing tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, ShopBots and HandiBots.
Of the more than 30 designs submitted by the hackathon participants, three emerged as winners with the most potential to take to market.
First place went to an idea called House Roast, which automatically adjusts oven temperature to mimic the professional roasting of coffee beans. The team adapted a conventional GE wall oven with an Arduino control for precise temperature control.
In second place was an idea called Fix of Water, which uses voice commands on a mobile device or tablet to control the water dispenser on a GE refrigerator.
Third place went to the Crock Watch concept, which lets users remotely control a Crockpot via a smartphone application.
As explained by Venkat Venkatakrishnan, lead facilitator for FirstBuild, the goal of the competition was to facilitate faster time to market for out-of-the-box ideas. In many ways, the same mission statement exists for GE FirstBuild as a whole.
The FirstBuild microfactory prides itself on the ability to fast-track product development, taking a concept from idea to test market in a fraction of time compared to the traditional GE funnel. Products are produced in small quantities, and can be introduced to consumers without a lot of risk.
Venkatakrishnan said FirstBuild plans to prototype the winning idea.