Ok here is my second idea, My first seemed to be an idea already suggested.. Hey.. maybe mine will stand out.. In case it doesn't...
Meet the Ion-O-Sphere (teeheee)
Taking the idea from the Vase ION pc shown as the example for this contest, I thought to do another decorative, small, and visually appealing for the tech savvy. The Body of the sphere can either be done in a Brushed Stainless Steel appearance, or possibly a Black, or near Black color, be it plastic or tinted metal. As Far as the size of the sphere, I would assume the builders would decide that, based on the measurements of the pc parts going inside.
Ok.. Lets do this in sections, first up, we have the "Front". First thing that will draw the eye is the "Equator" of the sphere, a band of semi transparent plastic, back lit by Green LEDS, the goal is to have a scanning affect that has the green light going round and around the entire sphere while on. This should be accompanied by a switch that is available in the front access panel that can toggle it on and off. If possible, option for a scanning sound? Think Cylons, Not sure if this is possible to have this hooked up with the mainboard as far as power supply.
Second thing that will draw the attention, will be the logo for the Ion-O-Sphere, in a recessed "room" if you will, the window should be flush with the body of the sphere. This may be done by making the sphere of a clear acrylic, then likely painting the inside with the desired metal color, or lining the inside with actual aluminum, cutting out the area needed. The logo should have its lettering back lit with a green color as well. I could not fit it in the image below, but along the bottom edge of the viewing area, have the NVidia logo there as well. If you can get ahold of a lighted logo, that would be great, otherwise a sticker or badge is just as good.
Now, as far as functionality. First off you will have a slot loading drive bay, Blu-Ray or DVD-RW. Slot loading because it has the least amount of impact on the spheres body, just requiring a slit to be cut. This can be either above or below the central diameter, depending on how everything fits inside. Also below should be the front access and control panel. Should have a good balance of ports for plugging in your goodies, as well as Audio plug ins, likely just Headphones and MIC/Line in. Leave the 7.1 channel ports for the rear. Also, if this is possible, if a toggle switch can be used to enable/disable the lighting for the Logos and Central lights, should have this there as well. This entire area should be covered with a panel or door, either have it where it has latches on the side that allows you to remove it(think of battery doors) Or, even better, a sliding panel that hides behind the rest of the sphere. The primary goal is to have it look like a complete sphere when not in use.
As far as the rear of the Sphere(if you can say that) This will be where you will have access to the rest of your peripheral ports, power.. pretty much everything you should find on the back of a computer. This as well should be able to be covered by a door or panel, and judging by the images of the actual ION MoBo that will be used, the WiFi Antenna should be detachable, allowing this. While below the central LED band, you can have access to the Hot Swap bay above the band as shown in the pic. I feel the hot swap bay is key, so that you aren't limited by its small size, and lowers the need to pop the custom case open for maintenance. Obviously when it is closed, again have it so that it is covered and disguised with the rest of the spheres body. Notice a theme here yet?
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The top of the sphere is where you will find the Power Button, which would also be preferably lit up as well. Surrounding the button on the apex should be a band of vents that should have a single large fan, or several smaller ones, and since heat rises, this would be the best place for this. If need be, you could run heat pipes from the mainboard, one for the RAM, one from the GPU... going up and around the Blu Ray to a heat sink with a mounted fan, blowing up and out of the vent. Impact on the overall spherical body of the PC should be minimal. Also, Lighting on the inside of the sphere can be used to leak out of the vent area.
Finally, the likely most complicated part of the body of the IonOSphere would be the base. What I had envisioned was to have another larger button on the very bottom, that when pressed, would release spring loaded supports from the main body, either in a tri-pod formation, or four legs. These legs would pull away from the main body and easily support the sphere, to keep it from rolling away. When closed, it should again, be indistinguishable from the rest of the spheres body. When the supports are deployed, that would allow air flow to come in from the bottom, likely protected by mesh(to keep things from getting inside) and possibly some sort of filter medium to help keep dust out. What I couldn't show, and thought would be a good idea, was to have some LEDs pointing downwards when the legs are deployed, to light up the desk below it. As far as the legs are concerned, shouldn't be too hard. Get some hinges, and also implement some sort of system that would push them out when released from the locking mechanism.
(A secondary idea would to include the power button in the lower release button, eliminating the power button on top, so that when you release the legs on the bottom, it triggers the power on function.)
Overall, the entire IonOSphere would be a eye catching centerpiece on your desk... And with solid construction inside, you should literally be able to roll the thing around when nothing is plugged in. This should be easy to construct, and shouldn't be too expensive. Alot more metal and material would go into a standard size case. As far as the parts go, the RAM and HD(s) apparently are supplied via Sponsorship. $500 should go a long way as far as what materials to use in its construction.. Leave plenty left over for the extras. All in all, even if I don't win, I would actually love to have a small form factor PC like this myself.. heh.. Cool to look at, has all you need PC wise...Speed, Graphics, Memory and HD space... Heh...Maybe even have an internal speaker, usable like the built in speakers you find in laptops...Now.. if only this idea hasn't been tried yet...(crosses fingers)
(Any of you ADMINS at M-I think I got a chance at a career for designing custom PCs? Heh...)