Yossi Atias came home one day and noticed that his daughter stuck a Band-Aid over the camera on her laptop. At school, she learned about the possibility of people hacking into her computer and turning on the camera or microphone without her knowledge. The only way to be 100% positive no one was looking was to physically cover the thing up. That got Atias thinking about ways to ensure intruders don’t enter a home network. One year later he launched Dojo, a product and service that protects against cyber attacks and adds a layer of security around connected devices.
Atias worked with NewDealDesign—the company behind FitBit, Sproutling, and Lytro—to develop Dojo. It consists of two parts: a smooth, pebble-like device that looks like a home decor object and a dock that plugs into your router to monitor network activity. Dojo learns what behavior is normal and if it recognizes an aberration—like a strange IP address trying to access a device—it alerts users by flashing a light on the pebble and sending a notification via its app. But instead of relaying some jargony error message and asking users to complete a convoluted series of actions, the app has a chat-based interface that “speaks” conversationally, like a person.
“Security is a complex language and we’re not going to communicate code to a user,” Atias says. “Everyone knows chats. It makes the product human and explains what’s happening in simple language. You don’t need training, you get it immediately.”
As Atias sees it, people are somewhat accustomed to digital compromises, like malware or corrupt files. Now, with the burgeoning IoT product category, that risk is connected to physical objects and there’s a need for more aggressive measures that anti-virus software won’t be able to combat. “You feel more secure if there’s a ‘person’ taking care of you,” Atias says. A fitting point since the purpose of this device is to make worrywart users feel safer about their technology.
Jaeha Yoo, director of experience design at NewDealDesign, took the lead on the project. “We really wanted to emphasize qualities of assurance, control, and comfort rather than use the language of alarm, threats, and intrusion,” he says. “The product experience is meant to feel like it belongs within the home and family, something that you can live with and have a relationship rather than a hired security guard.”
The chat-based, human, personified experience with Dojo signals the future of how we could interact with technology.
“As we reach saturation with the IoT—and we’re a long ways away, but the trend is very clear—we need to understand how we, as humans, should live with these increasingly smart and autonomous objects,” Yoo says. “This is our opportunity to define a future in which pervasive human-machine interactions feel more human than machine.”
As for me, I’ll probably continue to stick tape over my laptop camera as a foolproof way to ensure I don’t inadvertently start a video call on Skype. Even the best of apps can’t protect against human error.
Pre-order Dojo from Amazon for $100. Shipping is expected in March 2016.