In this weekend’s NYT Magazine, Rob Walker has an interesting piece on ‘hypothetical products’ and their value to innovation. Using Green Cell as an example, one of the winning designs from this year’s Greener Gadgets Design Competition, Walker asks “what is the point of a product proposed by three guys who aren’t remotely in a position to make it a reality?”

According to the competition’s host, Core77‘s Allan Chochinov, conceptual products have some very legitimate functions. Walker recounts Chochinov’s sentiment in regards to the hypothetical vending machine that pops out standardized batteries:

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