Ping: the connected lamp
Ping: the connected lamp
Two lamps are connected with each other over the internet through a simple installation. One user will see his/her lamp glow when the other switches it on. When both users have their lamps on both light up to full capacity. This makes people aware of each others presence over distance.
Wouter Reeskamp, inventor and designer
Tijn Kooijmans, designer and engineer
Bas Arps, photography
Saskia Freeke, movie
Ou Ning: This was my favorite. It’s very friendly, and connects people to each other. It’s romantic.
Ben Hughes: I like that it’s straightforward. Often, when people try to do networked devices, they always try to put loads of functions into them that you just know are superfluous. This one is good in that they limited it to doing just one thing that’s easy to understand.
Aric Chen: It’s a nice concept that combines technology with human emotion. But the form could use some work. It looks a bit like something you’d see next to the Precious Moments figurines at the Hallmark shop.
Ping: the connected lamp
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
Contact amongst people often happens non-verbally. A wink or a tap on the shoulder sometimes conveys more then words could express. Ping is a communication product that is based on this.
The challenge we set for ourselves was how to integrate the notion of each others presence over distance into an everyday life type of product. We concluded that a lamp is more then a visual aid but can also define what is 'home' to you and can represent warmth and even love.
Our goal was to design a lamp which emphasizes there is a part missing while still being an aesthetically pleasing product on it's own. Our main inspiration was two penguins in a mating ritual or two flames dancing around each other. The dividing curve between the two lamps has parallels with the defining curves or a yin-yang symbol. Only later we realized that the two lamps together bared resemblance to a flower, which is also a symbol of love.
The other challenge was to develop an easy way to let an everyday product communicate over the internet without a tedious installation procedure. We developed a simple dongle which can be clicked into the Ethernet router and communicates over low frequency radio (866 mHz). This way the lovers don't need to install software, change wifi-settings or have a computer turned on at all times.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
At Studio Sophisti we strongly believe in the notion of the Internet of Things. Everyday artifacts connected to the internet and therefore connecting us to people in much more subtle ways as it is doing now. We do believe that this needs to start out simple to prepare consumers for much richer ways of communicating to each other. A uniquely paired 'pinging' lamp would be simple enough.
For us as designers the idea also came to us based on daily lives. Going through SMS-inboxes and realizing the amount of messages simply stating 'goodnight', 'good morning', 'home now' or 'on my way' to our beloved ones. An everyday object like Ping could state exactly the same but then in a much more aesthetically pleasing and warmer way.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
Since Ping was a self-innitiated project the amount of stakeholders was quite limited. We had discussions with brands, retailers, technicians and marketeers on this.
We explicitly considered the buying scenario in this case. Most likely one lover buys the set of lamps and gives one to their beloved. This influences the price point to a degree, since study proved that it was still perceived one product while costing twice that. In discussion with retailers we decided that a $150 price point would be a maximum. Also a lot to a degree comparable products are sold at that price point: Nabaztag, Living Colors and DalDal.
Distribution would mainly be through gadget stores, home decoration shops and the internet. Since it is a product with a story marketing would be less of a challenge.
Technically we aimed at a rather innovative way of connecting it to the internet. We found a company called Inotive Solutions which has already developed a dongle to bridge low-frequency Radio to Ethernet. Still a challenge remained to integrate an antenna and radio module in the lamp it self, which was eventually all integrated in the base of the lamp.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
Our design was a quite independent project, and where Studio Sophisti normally works for clients and therefore needs to underline every decisions made we let intuition get the better part on this. We did initiate a web-survey on 150 people questioning how they would use such a product and if and what for the would buy it. In terms of getting the shape right several iterations were all reviewed on if it both combined and separately had an iconic shape to express the affordance and beauty we wanted it to have.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
The primary value of Ping is that it explores the true meaning of the Internet of Things: virtual and physical presence of people everywhere and at any time. It also addresses the social changes in Western Europe of people living in smaller and smaller households or even individually and how the internet can create a 'Together Alone' feeling which in the end is hardly satisfying. Ping represents a new approach to this loneliness.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
We still stand behind the design decisions we made but now realize that our solution for connecting the lamps (the ethernet-radio dongle) creates a too expensive offering for the $150 retail price point. A maybe less plug-and-play installation procedure through for instance an USB cable might lower the price and making it more attractive for a brand to pick it up and set out for distribution.