Digital tech dominates design and innovation

Design and innovation was dominated by advances in digital technology in 2011. From iPad music to air guitar T-shirts, electronics were everywhere.

This is the sound of 2011. Chinese rock band Da Mai Mai surprised the internet with overnight hit "Play Go!" - a song composed entirely on an iPad - the now-ubiquitous tablet that is finding more and more uses every day.

In February the 2011 Brit Insurance Design Awards highlighted two green advances - a pavement, now being trailed in British schools and shopping centers, which generates electricity. The other is the Plumen 001 low-energy lightbulb whose symmetrical intertwined fluorescent tubes mimic a bird's plume feathers.

In April Geneva hosted the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions. There, a flashing motorcycle jacket connected to direction indicators on the cycle itself and an illuminated table helped people navigate menus, place orders, change lighting and look at their bill.

In the summer, Welsh rock band The Last Republic teamed up with designers of the interactive Air Guitar T-shirt to help their fans keep up the beat.

And Subways in Shanghai displayed virtual supermarket shelves where busy commuters could quickly order goods and expect to find them delivered to their doors by the time they returned home. They can photo the barcode and shop with their smart-phones.

And at an UK exhibition of invisible furniture designed to make small spaces look bigger, were tables and chairs that reveal themselves with LED lighting as a person approaches.

But in spite of all this technological hooplah. In November the Science Museum in London tried to remind people of the lower-tech things around them. It opened "Hidden Heroes" exhibiting everything from humble lightbulb to the paper clip. It is designed to remind people that even simple, everyday objects took some very clever design - and that they shouldn't be taken for granted.

Editor: Xu Xinlei