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7 Absurdist Gadgets That Explore Our Relationship With Technology

Just imagine if gadgets were designed by Pee-Wee Herman.

We live in the full throes of the electric age. Why do all our gadgets look the same, then? Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Dan Adlešič was sick of the sleek-but-boring rectangles of glass, plastic, and aluminum that make up the material geometry of pretty much every 21st-century gadget. Instead, he has imagined a series fictional appliances that look like they just came from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: surrealist devices that are meant to re-awake our sense of wonder in the electric age.

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The name of Adlešič’s project is “Electricity is just like… woah!” That’s a pretty good encapsulation of the Ted “Theodore” Logan-like response he’s hoping to garner from his gadgets, which look like everything from dinosaurs to Pixar cyclopses. What unites them isn’t just their unconventionally wacky looks, but their equally surreal interactions. Adlešič’s gadgets are designed to be turned on and off by yelling at them, slapping them, squeezing them, and even smacking them with sticks.

There are seven gadgets in the series. Four of them are power strips, but these aren’t like the boring white plastic rectangles you have plugged in near your desk. One has four antenna and a baby arm sticking out of it, which only turns on if the dice-like remote is facing up. Another has a sensor hidden inside an embedded eye which uses motion detection to turn on. The “Solid Multiplug” looks like a bar of soap, but is so heavy, you can’t actually move it: to turn it on, you hit it with a stick. And finally, there’s the “Multiplug Dino,” a Tyrannosaurus power strip you need to yell or smack to turn on, and which only provides power as long as you are screaming or hitting it.

There are three other gadgets in the series, too. “Live Screen” is a mirror which only reflects you when you’re dancing in front of it. “Safe” is a jewelry box that squeezes precious objects in an accordion of polyurethane foam, and only unlocks when you place a set of keys in a small toy hand at the base. And the “Stand By” lamp is a soft-colored mood light inspired by light indicators on consumer electronics that are only visible in complete blackness.

What madness inspired these gadgets? Adlešič says he was originally inspired by his experiences in improv, and wanted to figure out a way to introduce some unexpected spontaneity in our interfaces. But he also wanted to play with our expectations on what a gadget should feel and look like. “Electronic components are colorful and playful but often hidden behind minimalistic shells which I find very sad,” he says. “I believe electricity should be used in a much wider and more poetic manner. There might be a limit to technology, but there are no limits to how and where it can be applied.”

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