Who says you can’t have a relationship with a lamp? Dutch designer created two robotic lights that can follow you around and keep you company. The aim is that they might provide the same type of emotional connection as a pet and maybe some of the same health benefits—all without having to take out the litter.
Place the Darwin lamp on your desk, and it will spend the day rolling around gathering light through the solar panel on its back. At night, when it senses movement, it follows you and lights your way. Wallace, a light that hangs from the ceiling, looks for the darkest corner in the room and points in that direction, and then moves on to the next spot.
While the lamps can be useful, and might even keep a desk better illuminated than the typical stationary light, de Graaf was less interested in their practicality. "It’s very much about the emotional value, and communication with an object, more than the function of the light," he says.
He was inspired to work on the project as a student at Design Academy Eindhoven, where most of his work focused on movement—inspired in part by the natural world, where nothing is fixed in place. An earlier experiment was a simple robot made of a box and an animal-like head attached to a remote-controlled car. De Graaf took the robot to the park, where he secretly watched as people petted the robot, waved at it, and chased it around.
The Darwin and Wallace lamps aren’t designed to look like any particular animal, but de Graaf worked closely with a software engineer to make the movements look as natural as possible. The physical form is based on mathematical patterns found in nature. Though the lights don’t have faces on them, when they swing to point in your direction, it’s hard not to feel that they’re looking at you.
De Graaf thinks that the emotional connection people feel might make the product more sustainable—if you’ve formed an attachment with something, you’re less likely to throw it in the trash. "I think that when you start to think of it as your pet, like a dog or a cat, you do start to care more for it than when it’s purely a functional object," he says.
Though the design is a concept now, De Graaf hopes to someday produce it. "It would probably have another sort of shape, or maybe a different function or movement," he says. "This is really just the first prototype."