Designers and creatives dreamed up robot butlers, clothing steam closets, penguin-shaped personal assistants and whole walls that were television screens for the Hotel Room of the Future contest held in March and April by 21c Museum Hotels and FirstBuild. Two Louisville designers won first place in the contest that drew “dozens of submissions,” according to an announcement.
The winning room, Experience the Future, submitted by Josh Beatty and Michael Casto, features a multifunctional concierge station run by a flat screen tablet. The station has an integrated Opal Nugget Ice dispenser, the popular ice machine developed by FirstBuild, a coffee brewer, a microfridge, LED track lighting and a snack drawer.
In a separate area in the room, an entire wall is an integrated LED display with an enormous plasma television.
The designers are co-founders of modulR Design, a Louisville-based product development and innovation studio. Casto is also a woodworker and often times their designs integrate wood with more modern materials. The company is an offshoot of modulR, a mobile accessory design firm that was the fastest-growing private company in Louisville in 2015.
The penguin butler from the second-place winner’s design has repurposed the iconic 21c penguins, designed by the Cracking Art Group, to function as a personal assistant in the same vein as Alexa or Google Home. Just say, “Hello, Penguin” and the penguin is activated and can tell you the time or the temperature, can turn on and off the lights and coffee pot, make calls to room service and serve as an alarm clock.
The top three winners received the 21c Experience Package (a night at any 21c location and $150 food voucher). First and second prize got $2,500 and $1,500. The top three winners also received one or two of FirstBuild’s most popular appliances, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker and the Paragon Smart Cooking System.
Symon Harrah, FirstBuild’s community design manager, told Insider that many of the entries used projection screens, smart glass, virtual reality, home movie theaters and smart information projection technology in their hotel room proposal. Some of the entries featured things that were so futuristic that they would be impossible to realize.
But what made Beatty and Casto’s proposal stand out were the appliances, according to Harrah. “Experience of the Future interested us the most due to the way the appliance concepts were integrated into a smart concierge station that offered plenty of opportunities for unique interactions and smart technologies, all within a single solution.”
Harrah said that FirstBuild would be working with the designers over the coming weeks to figure out how much of their proposal could be manifested at the hotel in the future. He said that the partnership with 21c would continue.
Louisville’s Chief of Civic Innovation, Grace Simrall, helped judge the contest, which she called “fantastic.” She said that the judges were given copies of the top 10 entries in advance so that they could score them before the judges convened. “There was a healthy and robust discussion about it,” she said.
Simrall agreed with Harrah on the fact that some of the more futuristic entries were “fun to think about” but unfeasible, like a zero-gravity room.
Simrall praised 21c’s participation in the contest saying that the hotel chain really “got the spirit of it.”
Requests for comment from 21c have not been returned.