“As Plato said, ‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.'” That’s designer Bob de Graaf talking, and he has thought up a lamp that our highly productive lifestyles clearly need: “I like to make objects that trigger people to play,” de Graaf explains.
De Graaf’s Species of Illumination lights have a Wall-E-like charm and are likely to inspire just that kind of reaction. Named Darwin and Wallace, these anthropomorphic gadgets are outfitted with sensors, and can detect the darkest spots in a given room. Wallace, which hangs from the ceiling, does the scouting. Darwin, a solar-powered desk lamp that scoots around on wheels, follows Wallace’s cues. They respond to motion, too, so if you wave your hand in front of Darwin or Wallace it’ll attract the gadgets’ attentions.
Darwin is smart, too. When it isn’t busy, it roams around looking for sunlight so it can power up. De Graaf first landed on the idea to create the Species after he affixed an abstract head shape to a radio-controlled box, and took it to a park in Eindhoven, a city in the Netherlands. That people were delighted by the early prototype inspired de Graaf. In turn, he created Species of Illumination for his final project at the Design Academy Eindhoven last year.
Usefully, Species echoes some of the benefits of a connected home: It can supply lighting autonomously, like the Hue lighting system. Alternatively, like the Nest Thermostat, Darwin-Wallace can adjust to the environment.
But De Graaf says his goal as a designer is to find the emotional qualities in electronics. So unlike those other automated gadgets, which are powered through ultra-minimal pieces of hardware, the Species lamps act like curious little helpful pets. “The main use of my Species is not their capability to bring light but the interaction you can have with them,” de Graaf tells Co.Design. “Their sometimes unpredictable movements make you want to play with them.”