This Lamp Only Works If You Hand Over Your Smartphone

The light goes out if you remove your device–forcing you to make a choice and think twice about your addiction.

You probably check your smartphone over 100 times a day–maybe as many as 900 times if you’re truly obsessed. And while there are many ways to curb tech addiction, from apps (ironically) to rooms that deliberately block cell phone signals, this may be one of the simplest: A lamp that only works if you put your phone inside.


“Technology has brought us a lot of convenience, but are we mentally ready for it?” designer Weng Xinyu writes. “We can’t help texting, tweeting, and surfing on our smart devices even during work. Superfluous information is flowing from everywhere. The sense of priority is fading, resulting in a precarious balance between work and amusement, real and virtual life. It is time we ask the question, what do we really want?”

The Balance lamp has a slot to hold the phone, and turns on once the phone is inside. If you’re tempted to take it out, the light goes off, so you’re forced to make a choice–and think about exactly how addicted you are to your phone.

It may not be convenient, but that’s the point. The lamp is part of a series of products Weng designed as a student at Bauhaus University, all of which avoid being useful in any practical way.

Each of the other products is also designed to make you think: A picture frame blurs the photograph inside if you walk by without looking at it, a wooden clock slowly destroys itself to remind you of the passage of time, and a lamp turns itself off if you leaves the room.

For the designer, the series is a way to create new products without fueling overconsumption. “Designs are becoming a catalyst of our endless desire for consumption, which is not sustainable,” Weng says. “So I thought, what if products are not meant to satisfy? Interacting with these products is not merely fun, it makes people think. There’s nothing to consume here any more, and no more ‘consumer.'”

Weng says he may not even produce the designs. Since their purpose is to make people think, he says, it’s enough just to share the ideas online–and avoid any of the environmental cost of production entirely. “I am interested in making these objects available to as many people as possible, but it shouldn’t necessarily have to be mass produced,” he says. “To be circulated on the Internet . . . also has the same effects.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.