The black box, according to Co.Design patron saint Dieter Rams (and other notable members of the designerati), is emblematic of good design: simple, honest, and functional. This particular version is no ordinary box; it’s a roving radiator that automatically captures and stores excess heat and expels it in cooler areas. Think of it as a temperature equalizer for your home.
H-Agent is the invention of the German design duo Andreas Meinhardt and Daniel Abendroth and relies heavily on phase change material (PCM), a technology commonly used in passive houses that can store heat. Here’s how it works: When the temperature rises above 78° Fahrenheit, the PCM melts and cools the air; at temperatures under that mark, it hardens and releases heat reserves. Infrared sensors guide the device to places where heat can be harvested.
The designers boast that H-Agent represents “the first step towards the heating systems of tomorrow.” But tomorrow may be quite a ways off. Although the current prototype can find heat sources and avoid collisions, its software--its brain, so to speak--remains “under development.” That said, like all black boxes, it holds great potential. The design won second place in the most recent Prixe Émile Hermès competition. For more information, go here (PDF).