"Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things"

Sep 29, 2014

On this edition of ST, an in-depth discussion with David Rose, an award-winning entrepreneur and instructor at the MIT Media Lab who specializes in how digital information interfaces with the physical environment. Rose also founded Ambient Devices, which pioneered the technology used to embed Internet information in everyday objects like lamps, mirrors, and umbrellas. Currently, Rose is the CEO of Ditto Labs, and he's the author of a fascinating new book: "Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things." As one critic, writing for The New York Times, noted of this work: "Delightful.... In the scrum of talking heads wrestling to gain control of the narrative behind the Internet of Things, Mr. Rose is an engaging, plain-spoken guide." And as Rose himself writes, in the interesting and at times rather unsettling Prologue to his book: "I have a recurring nightmare. It is years into the future. All the wonderful everyday objects we once treasured have disappeared, gobbled up by an unstoppable interface: a slim slab of black glass. Books, calculators, clocks, compasses, maps, musical instruments, pencils, and paintbrushes, all are gone. The artifacts, tools, toys, and appliances we love and rely on today have converged into this slice of shiny glass, its face filled with tiny, inscrutable icons that now define and control our lives. In my nightmare the landscape beyond the slab is barren. Desks are decluttered and paperless. Pens are nowhere to be found. We no longer carry wallets or keys or wear watches. Heirloom objects have been digitized and then atomized. Framed photos, sports trophies, lovely cameras with leather straps, creased maps, spinning globes and compasses, even binoculars and books -- the signifiers of our past and triggers of our memory -- have been consumed by the cold glass interface and blinking search field. Future life looks like a Dwell magazine photo shoot. Rectilinear spaces, devoid of people. No furniture. No objects. Just hard, intersecting planes.... The lack of objects has had an icy effect on us. Human relationships, too, have become more transactional, sharply punctuated, thin and curt. Less nostalgic. Fewer objects exist to trigger storytelling...."