Dyson just recently announced plans to expand beyond its trademark vacuums, but it turns out that the brand has been working on non-vacuum prototypes all along.
Dyson's DC41 Animal Complete vacuum cleaner.
- Colin West McDonald/CNET
Dyson, the British luxury small appliance manufacturer, is best known for the colorful cyclonic filters it uses on its vacuum cleaners. But it wants the world to know it's been working on other kinds of products, too, revealing three never-before-seen prototypes to show off its innovation expertise.
Is it coincidental timing that Dyson is offering up this broader view of its R&D operations, less than 24 hours before news of an anticipated expansion by Apple into smart home tech? The projects listed here aren't exact corollaries to, say, a set of smart light bulbs, but as Google, Facebook, and other tech companies start expanding their horizons, why not one more?
James Dyson, the company's founder, famously went through thousands of vacuum prototypes (5,127, to be exact) to perfect his vision before bringing it to production. Today, he employs teams of scientists and engineers who continue to develop products within the industry, but the company has been building all sorts of other concepts for years now, too -- many of which have nothing to do with vacuums or its other high-end retail items.
|James Dyson wearing the Dyson Halo N066 augmented reality headset.|
Dyson Halo N066 smart glasses and watch
The N066 was a full-color 3D augmented reality headset that Dyson started working on in 2001. It projected a 10-inch display about 1 meter (3.3 feet) in front of you and let you select among a list of applications. Sound familiar?
The headset relied on a pocket-sized computer to give you information about things in your immediate area. Through audio and visual prompts, it helped wearers perform tasks, like reading emails. A virtual keyboard also allowed you to write emails on any surface.
You could disconnect the portable computer, dock it, and use it as a desktop computer of sorts.
The controller is another hardware component of N066. It was designed to be worn on the wrist like a watch and worked like a laptop pointing stick so you could move the virtual cursor across the virtual display.
The Dyson Halo was in development for three years before the project was stalled. The team of engineers were asked to focus on bringing the brand's existing product categories to the US instead. However, tech from N066 is being used in more recent projects.
|The Dyson Diesel Trap X007|
Dyson Diesel Trap X007 engine filter
Another Dyson prototype was inspired by the brand's signature cyclonic vacuum filters. Since the cyclone technology is used to remove allergens and other harmful particles from your floors, Dyson decided to apply the same theory to diesel fuel engines. The idea was that it would help filter out more of the hazardous environmental pollutants that diesel engines expel.
Early versions of X007 relied on cyclone tech, but needed too much energy to run properly. Several iterations later and Dyson had a working prototype. Dyson claims that it had a hard time getting people interested in this product -- as manufacturers were more interested in ceramic filters -- and stopped developing the X007.
|The Dyson Digital Motor V4HF|
Dyson Digital Motor V4HF
The goal of this project was twofold: to develop a digital motor for a fuel cell and to simultaneously decrease its size and increase its performance efficiency. Ten engineers worked on the digital motor project for three years. Eventually, the team came up with V4HF.
According to Dyson, this small, lightweight motor did improve efficiency and increase power density. It also made the notoriously slow fuel cell start-up time nearly three times faster. While this prototype hasn't shown up anywhere yet, Dyson is still considering possible applications for V4HF.
Earlier this year, we reported on Dyson's $8 million investment in a robotics research lab and its plans for a large-scale $420 million R&D build-out expansion at its headquarters in Wiltshire, UK. Growing its R&D branch will give Dyson the opportunity to focus even more attention on its side projects. And while we haven't heard specifics just yet, Dyson decided to excite our anticipation by sharing a few of its pre-R&D-expansion concepts. These three never-before-seen Dyson prototypes didn't advance beyond the concept stage, but might just give us an idea of what to expect from the vacuum-maker-turned-tech-innovator in the future.