Rehydrate and Recharge: Error-free
How could a water bottle exhibit excellent design that successfully prevents error? What even is “error” for a water bottle per se? To find answers to these questions, we need only look at the current and previous iterations of Camelback’s water bottle lids. The older version–still quite popular with a large demographic of users–features a straw attached to a mouthpiece. The new version–not widespread as yet but rapidly gaining popularity–has a small screw-top attached to the rest of the lid (see image). While the first version of the lid provides functionality that is valued by many, there is still the potential for “user error”, for instance, if you do not fold the mouthpiece back in properly, after a time, it stays out and it becomes impossible to fold it back in. Furthermore and perhaps the most grievous error, if it is not tucked in and it falls on the ground, all hope is lost as the mouthpiece has certainly come in contact with the ground and even if it does not touch the ground, it all too easily comes into contact with other unclean surfaces. The resulting hygiene hazard is arguably the user’s fault, since he or she did indeed drop the water bottle or brushed against some disgustingly germy object, but in a world where “user error” does not exist, how can this problem be prevented? Camelback’s second iteration of water bottle lid makes this hygiene hazard near impossible. Indeed, I have yet to find a way for any part of the mouthpiece to come into contact with an undesired object since the mouthpiece is covered by a simple screw-cap which neatly tucks away while drinking, safely mitigating any risk of contacting unwanted surfaces. Like the old version, there is still no risk of dropping the cap because it is attached to the bottle. In the extremely rare case that the outside rim of the mouthpiece came in contact with the ground, the inside portion where the water touches physically cannot do so, and the shape of the mouthpiece enables easy “fountaining” (pouring of water directly into the mouth without coming into contact with the outer rim) if it does happen.
On a very different note, we can look to Apple’s MacBook Air charger for an exhibition of poor error prevention. The wire cable that juts out from the rectangular casing is rather fragile and cannot withstand even the most minor wear and tear–worse still, the degradation of this wire actually results in dangerous sparking which poses a fire hazard. The charging rectangle includes two small pieces of plastic which fold out and presumably are meant to wrap the cord around for storage. The cord comes unravelled far too easily, leaving the cord susceptible to being damaged. All this is attributed by Apple to user error, rather than simply providing a safe and convenient way to store the cord when not being used.
I propose the following solution, which is inspired by a retractable dog-leash. Essentially, one can pull the end of the cord out to the desired length, and then to store, can simply push the button to retract it. The inner components would take care of the coiling to ensure that it is done correctly and will thus not damage the cord (as might happen when the user is required to recoil it), and it will be stored in a case to prevent any wear-and-tear from the environment in which the charging unit is kept (e.g. a backpack).