In the Secret Life of Objects class at CIID we questioned the notion that products should always be obedient and behave how we expect. We were interested in how objects can be designed to adapt, learn our habits, make decisions for us, and in a way have a life of their own. We tried to think of objects not just as things with intelligence but as things in a larger ecosystem of intelligences, some of which are human, and many of which are not. In the case of the Aspiration Lamp, those ecosystems include our financial markets and the supply chains that manufacture and maintain our appliances.
The Aspirational Lamp has has a secondary function, or as we liked to say a ‘"day job". It collects solar power which allows it to be more energy efficient; and as a result, it saves money. It has autonomy not only over its actions, but is given responsibility over the money it accrues through its efficient behavior. Using this money it invests both in external markets and in itself in the the form of upgrades and repairs of hardware. We imagined that It would just be one part of a network of connected objects which can work together to achieve greater collective goals through pooling of their monetary resources and their machine learning intelligence.
The interactive lamp model was built for the Secret Life of Objects public exhibition at CIID. We built it to give the visitors a sense of what living with an autonomous home appliance would be like. Using two servo motors, the lamp has the ability to move from a position illuminating a desk to looking out the window for its sun collection. The lamp decides between these modes using a proximity sensor to detect if anyone is nearby. It was amazing to see how even the prototype's small level of interactivity and animation gave visitors the sense that the lamp was very intelligent and full of personality.