Chocolate inhalers, air filters made from plants and package neutral ice cream-––these are just a few of the innovations headed our way. Actually, they already exist. The Lab Cambridge, home to these curious products and more, is slated to open in Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 31. David Edwards, the inventor and material scientist behind this opening, wants to change the way we think about food, packaging and distribution.
A combination innovation lab, exhibition space, classroom, shop and café, the lab is Edwards’s second location focused on pushing the boundaries of our cultural norms. The two venues came out of a classroom experience he taught at Harvard. Seven years ago, Edwards opened the first location, Le Laboratoire Paris, with a goal to be as unlike a typical academic setting as possible, offering artists, scientists and designers the freedom to exhibit art, create new products and explore ideas that sounded just plain weird. So, what exactly is this inventor/scientist up to? A lot.
One of his inventions that’s already available is frozen yogurt you can stash in your pocket: Edwards came up with an edible coating that replaces the need for traditional packaging. He calls it WikiPearls, and it actually protects food and enables it to last longer.
The orb-shaped WikiPearl comprises two parts: an inner “heart,”—so far, Edwards has used yogurt, ice cream and fruits—and the “skin,” a biodegradable natural covering formed from a protective electrostatic gel made of food particles, nutritive ions and a polysaccharide. The skin maintains its strength and holds the contents even as the heart begins to thaw, releasing little more than a hint of moisture.
Eventually, products using the WikiPearl technology won’t need commercial packaging; they’d be sold, for example, like a stack of apples on a shelf. Until then, the team is working to use as little packaging as possible, even exploring using a 100 percent sugarcane material.
If you’re interested in some Wikipearls of your own, Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls are on shelves at four Whole Foods in the Boston area. The WikiFoods team tells FWx that in September Wikipearls will expand to all 35 stores across Whole Foods’ North Atlantic region and a number of Wegmans in Massachusetts and New York.
In addition to Wikipearls, Edwards introduced AeroLife, an “air-based nutrition system” that delivers a calorie-free form of vitamins, flavors and supplements in a tiny design-friendly device from which you can breathe air. It looks like a cooler, healthier, version of both an asthma inhaler and an e-cigarette. Just think, next time you’re running late you could breathe in your morning cup of joe.
What’s next for the scientist? Perhaps Edwards is working on a calorie-free way to deliver us the Cronut?
The Lab Cambridge will be located at 650 E. Kendall St., in Cambridge, MA, in Kendall Square.