The phone activated table lamp for a distraction free dining experience.

The Problem

Mobile technology has brought a wave of new communication into our lives, but we are now more likely to turn to our phones than to eachother.

According to Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, face to face conversation is where we develop the capacity for empathy, self-reflection, and a secure sense of self. Always on, we’re connected, but not invested in others. It’s no wonder frequent use of social media leads to feelings of depression and social anxiety.

The Goal

This project addresses an encroaching issue that is likely here to stay. The objective is to create distraction free spaces for deep connection that elicit joy, not restriction.

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How It Works

Socialight is a phone activated table lamp. Once a phone is placed on the platform, a magnetometer detects the device’s electromagnetic field and turns on the light.

“With children, the best predictor of success later on in life is the number of meals shared with their families.”

The dinner table is a place for daily face to face interaction. As Turkle explains, “With children, the best predictor of success later on in life is the number of meals shared with their families.”

When we're on our devices, we lose precious time with our kids, romantic partners and colleagues. Socialight provides a pleasant ambiance for eating while forcing users to distance themselves from their phones.

Always On

Mobile technology was designed for an “always on” user. With infinite options, it’s hard to create space for ourselves, and even more difficult to ask others for their undivided attention. Yet, conversation requires both time and space. We say we're too busy, but really, we're just distracted.

Socialight is inspired by phone tower, a game played by restaurant goers where phones are stacked on top of each other and the first person to grab their device has to pay for the meal.

Similar to phone tower, Socialight’s consequence for removing your phone is darkness, further emphasizing the taboo.

Next Steps

Recognizing the problem is one thing, but taking action can be difficult once the habit is engrained. We need to reconsider how we want to build our relationship with persuasive technologies. Further, we can redesign these relationships to better fit our human needs. Turkle reminds us that “Listening and talking are skills. They can be taught and relearned.” Socialight was created to nudge us in that direction.

Behind the Scenes

Initial form explorations sketched on paper, final form turned in balsa wood using a lathe, electronic circuitry initially tested and prototyped with arduino uno, then hardwired using an adafruit trinket.

Press and Awards

Fast Company / Do We Really Need A Gadget To Stop Us From Using Gadgets Now?

Thrive Global / This Gadget Could Get Your Friends to Finally Put Their Phones Away During Dinner

The Scoop / If you’d rather play on your phone than eat, help is on the way

International Design Award (IDA) / Gold in Outdoor And Exercise Equipment / Outdoor Lighting / 2017

International Design Award (IDA) / Bronze in Home Interior Products / Lighting / 2017