If you have trouble resisting the impulse to check your smartphone while you’re out with friends or having dinner on a date, this table might help: By literally strapping two people together for the duration of the meal, it forces them to pay attention to each other.
“With more and more people addicted to mobile technology, it happens more frequently that people have meals absentmindedly,” says designer Michael Jan, who created the Napkin Table along with fellow industrial design students at Tunghai University in Taiwan. “This inspired us to consider what ideal dining is, and figure out if there is a new dining experience that can draw attention back to the dining table.”
The resulting table for two is a cross between a napkin and a picnic blanket. Each diner attaches one end of the table to themselves with a strap, and then the fabric stretches in between, making a surface that holds plates, drinks, and silverware with a little bit of balancing. After you’re done, everything folds up into a small portable case.
It’s not the most ergonomic or practical design, but the designers say it’s not really intended to replace regular tables–it’s meant to just get us to think. “It’s an experimental product responding to the social dining phenomenon,” Jan says. “It’s not a product focusing on how to solve the modern habit of eating with cell phones. Instead, users can reflect on this dining phenomenon happening in our everyday lives.”
At least 38% of people admit that they regularly check their phones during dinner, and the real number is probably higher. It’s a problem, but there are other solutions: If you don’t want to awkwardly strap yourself to a friend during dinner, you can also try wearing clothes that block your phone from getting a signal. Or just leave the phone at home.