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Home comforts' high-tech makeover
By Zhu Shenshen

WHILE brands such as Apple may have the highest profiles, the consumer electronics industry is filled with creativity - in design, shape or functions - in the home appliance sector.

Many of the companies producing these seem to have adopted Steve Jobs' motto: simple, beautiful and useful. They are developing gadgets to offer a unique user experience, cutting-edge technology, plus nice design - often bundled with a high price.

Manufacturers of products, from bladeless fans that creates cool/heated airflows, table lamb that uses 3D technology to deep fryers using air instead of oil, are seeking to attract Chinese consumers.

And with extraordinary colors, streamlined designs and unique functions, many resemble Apple's iMac or iPads. But in reality, they are made by companies such as Netherlands-based Royal Philips and UK-based Dyson.

"I prefer to call myself a designer and an engineer rather than a businessman," said James Dyson, founder of Dyson, when asked how he would compare himself to late Apple boss Jobs.

And the British inventor emphasized several times the importance of design and quality during a recent interview in Shanghai. Dyson spent more than three decades on inventing and improving appliances, including in bladeless fans. The company provides many variations of its products, including ones targeting families with children or pets.

Dyson regards the Chinese market as having huge potential for his company.

For electronics giant Philips, China is already proving full of opportunities - from demand for sustainable healthcare, a need for energy-efficient solutions and products aimed at improving personal well-being.

Meanwhile, the poor cooking skills of many young people opens up opportunities for innovation in kitchen appliances, like the Philips fryer that uses air instead of oil.

"China is Philips' second home market (after Europe) and our strategy in investment on research won't change," Frans Greidanus, head of research and chief technology officer of Philips Asia, said recently.

Indeed, both companies place their faith in research as the key to future development.

In China, with its surging demand for lifestyle goods, Philips will continue investing more than 100 million euros (US$126 million) annually, mainly on healthcare, personal well-being and energy-efficient sectors.

Bloom table lamp

Inspired by how flowers develop, the Bloom table lamp, designed by 3D technology, features a shade which collapses and expands to release or contain light.

The blueprint of the lamp was made using 3D printing technology, including hinges that in one movement, transform the shade from a bud to a blossom. With the complexity of its design, the Bloom lamp is regarded as pushing even further the boundaries of 3D technologies.

The lamp's design won the Red Dot Design Award 2011, one of the top industrial design awards.

Price: Not available

Dyson hot/cool fan heater

The bladeless fan heater uses patented Air Amplifier technology to create long range heat projection to heat the whole room quickly and evenly. It also functions as a cooling fan.

It's suitable for the families with children because it has low surface temperatures and, of course, no potentially dangerous blades.If tipped over, the machine automatically cuts out.

Air is drawn in through a mixed flow impeller - a combination of the technologies used in turbochargers and jet engines. It is then accelerated through a 2.5mm aperture set within the loop amplifier. This creates a jet of air and surrounding air is drawn into the airflow, amplifying it, says Dyson.

Another innovation is the magnetized remote control which sits neatly on top of the machine.

Price: 4,990 yuan (US$798.4)

Philips air fryer

This fryer uses air technology to fry food and snacks without oil. According to research, food fried in the device contains up to 80 percent less oil than items fried a conventional deep fat fryer using oil.

The fryer has been redesigned in Philips' labs in China to cater for Chinese consumers, whose tastes extend beyond French fries and other items favored by Western customers.

The device also features adjustable temperature control for better results.

Price: 1,999 yuan

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