It can be unnerving — but oh-so-helpful! — enough as is living in a home alongside an all-knowing matryoshka doll-shaped gadget
gently reminds you to make your bed, brush your teeth, and lay off the Haagen-Dazs after 10 pm. But an Internet-connected toaster that throws temper tantrums and threatens to relocate itself to another home when it feels that it’s not being used as frequently as it would like? A toaster that knows
when other toasters in the neighborhood are getting far more English muffin action? A toaster capability of jealousy?
Meet Brad, the histrionics-prone centerpiece of Addicted Products
, Italian designer Simone Rebaudengo
experiment — "a speculation, a question pointing towards our relationships with objects and the implications of designing smart and connected" — carried out in collaboration with Haque Design Research and Delft University of Technology. Essentially, it’s an experiment meant to draw attention to consumers’ wasteful tendency to buy things that they often don’t really
need to use on a regular basis (hello bread machine!); things that could instead be easily shared with friends and neighbors instead.
Billed as “part of a new breed of products that love to be used,” I suppose you could view Brad as the Furby of small appliances — you don’t treat him right and he’ll be sure to let you know it. If things slide into neglect territory, Brad will, in addition to complaining, start cruising the Internet on the hunt for other “host” homes in the area where he might find more love.
The Addicted Toaster has a built-in Ethernet port through which it connects to a network of its peers (other smart toasters) via the internet. Through this network, hopeful users can apply to host a toaster, which will be theirs for as long as they keep it happy. The toaster can sense when other toasters in the network are being used by their hosts, which can result feelings of jealousy and contribute to overall discontent.
The toaster demonstrates its unhappiness by moving its lever up and down while making unpleasant noises. If it is really dissatisfied, it will denounce its hosts as unworthy via the toaster network, in which case a courier service will come to whisk it away to a more nurturing household.
Well, I’ll be damned.
While I can’t picture anyone wanting to be in possession of a discontent countertop appliance that’s prone to jealous outbursts, Rebaudengo is certainly on to something here.
What it smart appliances were more than just intuitive
— if they were programmed to possess a complex range of emotions? What if they wanted
to be used? How would it change that we interact with them? Would we buy less and share more? Or would we just use them a lot to keep them quiet and happy?
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