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Companion robot for sicks kids scoops Good Design Awards

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A companion therapy robot to help sick children undergoing cancer treatment, and the world's first modular hearing aid, designed with the input of hearing aid wearers and jewellers, were among the winners at last night's 2018 Good Design Awards.

Known as IKKI, the companion therapy robot developed by industrial designer Seaton McKeon, won the Next Gen Award at an awards ceremony at the Sydney Opera House last night.

IKKI, the Companion Therapy Robot for Sick Children by designer Seaton McKeon was winner of the next Gen award, at the 2018 Good Design awards.

Photo: supplied

McKeon developed the concept, which he describes as a mesh between a fitbit and a teddy bear, in conjunction with the oncology team at Westmead Children's Hospital. IKKI, which is the size of a toy robot, can monitor medication, measure temperature with a non-invasive infrared system, record songs and stories from parents, and used to monitor heart and breathing to help calm a young patient. Most importantly it can accompany a child in hospital and at home throughout the cancer treatment, Mr McKeon said.

"It's head lights up and the patient can blow it out like a candle which is a great calming distraction for a sick child in stressful situations," Mr McKeon said.

Jan Utzon, son of Jorn Utzon who was the original architect of the Opera House, is in Australia to present the 60th Good Design Awards.

Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

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Paediatric Oncologist Dr Michael Stevens, who has seen the robot in use by some of the children undergoing treatment at Westmead, says it is an example of the dramatic improvements artificial intelligence can make to the lives of patients and carers.

'IKKI is a really important forerunner of a really exciting digital revolution in medicine," Dr Stevens said of the design, which is still seeking funding.

The overall winner of the Good Design Awards, Blamey Saunders' Facett hearing aid, which also took out the CSIRO Design Innovation Award, consulted jewellery makers and hearing aid users, to design a product that is easier to use with rechargeable batteries, and is colour-coded for different ears.

The Good Design Awards celebrate the best new products and services on the Australian market, from architecture to engineering, and from digital to fashion design.

Holden's 1968 HK Monaros are honoured in the Good Design Awards showcase.

This year's competition attracted a record 536 entries with 269 projects receiving an award. The winners of Australia's peak design industry awards – the highest honour for design innovation – were announced last night at a ceremony hosted by Jan Utzon, the son of Danish Sydney Opera House designer Jørn Utzon.

"When I moved to Australia in 1963, Sydney was still a place where even the picket fences were inspired by the suburbs in England," Mr Utzon said.

Nylex's Esky, is part of the 60 years of design Good Design Awards showcase.

Photo: Natalie Boog

"Now Australian design – like Australian cuisine – is so diversified the whole country has developed a new way of creating useful beautiful products for the world," he said.

Indeed when his father won the 1957 competition to design the Sydney Opera House, Australia's most celebrated architectural design, there was no national peak body that recognised outstanding design in any field.

Crown Corning ware for the microwave: an Australian design.

Photo: Photographer Unknown

It wasn't until the year after, 1958, that the Industrial Design Council of Australia (IDCA) was formally established by a group of design and industry professionals and funded by the Commonwealth Government.

But still it remained as an umbrella organisation, of the British "Design Council", with the Prince Philip Prize for Australian Design, awarded to promote greater awareness of Australian design. It wasn't until 1976, and the start of the Australian Design Awards that designers in all areas began to receive national recognition according to Dr Brandon Gien, the CEO of Good Design Australia, which was formerly the Industrial Design Council.

Jan Utzon, son of Jorn Utzon who was the original architect of the Opera House, is in Australia for the 60th Good Design Awards.

Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

"For so many Australian designers and inventors, to receive an Australian Design Award was a game-changer," Dr Gien said.

To celebrate 60 years of outstanding design since 1958, the Good Design Awards exhibition opens next weekend, May 25-27 at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in conjunction with Vivid Sydney.

It will showcase Australian designs from the baby capsule to the black box recorder, and the duel flush toilet to the Esky.

Inventors of such innovations like the wine cask cooler (Richard Carlson) and the Crown Corning Dish, (Charles Furey) and design icons like Holden's HK Monaro 1968 (Phillip Zmood) will be featured.

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Helen Pitt

Helen Pitt is a journalist at the The Sydney Morning Herald.

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