Lexus New Zealand has announced two winners of the annual New Zealand Lexus Design Award Competition, with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) design students Tom Saran and Antoine Helean taking top marks for their entry ‘Fire Aid’, and Fiona Yoon from University of Auckland clinching the top spot with her entry ‘ARctive’.

Both designs executed creative use of augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology in their award-winning creations. Tom and Antoine paired up to design and build prototype AR glasses designed to assist firefighters through thermal imaging, hazard detection and situational data.

Lexus New Zealand Vice President, Andrew Davis, says, “It’s been rewarding to experience the growth of our local Lexus Design Award competition year on year. 2023 has been our biggest competition yet, with 53 outstanding entries submitted by the students.

“Choosing a shortlisted top eight this year proved extremely difficult for our judging panel, let alone winners from each university. Our winners exemplify the perfect synergy between advanced technology and a focus on human needs, keeping in line with our own philosophy for design here at Lexus,” says Davis.

Powered by a battery pack, ‘Fire Aid’ components are attached to a pair of flame-retardant frames that reflect a microcomputer screen onto tinted glass. The computer provides the user with crucial information about temperature gradients, gas levels, building blueprints, location of civilians and other firefighters, all in real time.

Fiona’s entry ARctive, was completed in partnership with UoA and a capstone partner, the Empathic Computing Laboratory. The remote exercise therapy program was specifically designed for seniors, aiming to promote holistic well-being and combat depression.

With a focus on physical, social and emotional well-being, Fiona’s software offers an augmented reality exercise space and a community support system.

Lexus brand ambassadors and founders of Resident, the globally focused design company, Simon James, Scott Bridgens and Tim Rundle have closely mentored students throughout the submission process and were key contributors as part of the judging panel.

Simon James says “With 53 entrants, we were blown away with the diversity of thought in the entries to this year’s Lexus Design Award competition and are thrilled to witness its continued growth. This year, the winners have brought new aesthetics, materials, and behavioural approaches to their unique designs.”

For a fourth consecutive year, Lexus New Zealand has collaborated with university students at Auckland University of Technology to showcase top designers. 2023 marks the second year the competition has been open to entry to students at the University of Auckland.

Students from both universities were tasked with creating written submissions supported by imagery and prototypes to present concepts that address 2023’s competition theme: ‘Design for a Better Tomorrow’.

Entries support a brighter future while articulating anticipation, innovation and captivation – personifying the essence of the Lexus brand. 

“AI and AR were a trend we saw in several design entries this year, and there were plenty of discussions during the mentoring process around how to consider these emerging technologies in the context of the brief,” says Bridgens.

“Our finalists and winning entries are incredibly diverse, and each take a dive into varied issues facing both New Zealand and the world. It’s safe to say the future designers in Aotearoa are very talented,” he says.

Lexus will provide cash prizes to the first and second place winners from each university of $4,000, $2,000 respectively. The winners were announced last night at an awards ceremony hosted by Simon James in Mount Eden.

The winning concepts were:

Auckland University of Technology

1st Place – Tom Saran and Antoine Helean for their concept ‘Fire Aid’

2nd Place – Yeaseo Im for their concept ‘Cocoon’

University of Auckland

1st Place – Fiona Yoon for her concept ‘ARctive’

2nd Place – MacKenzie Carkeek for their concept ‘Haptic Patch’

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