Meet Brad. Brad is a toaster. More specifically, Brad is a smart toaster, and as a smart toaster, he’s connected both to the internet and to a local network of other toasters and household appliances. Welcome to the internet of things.
However, unlike our current bevy of smart-home products — like inexplicably Wi-Fi-connected refrigerators and washing machines, or Nest‘s line of thermostats and smoke detectors — Brad doesn’t just use his newfound connectivity to better serve you, his master. He feels good when you use him, and gets jealous when he hears the other toasters in town are getting more play.
Brad is part of a speculative design project called Addicted Products, by Italian designer Simone Rebaudengo, which imagines a future in which the internet has made the stuff we own just as needy and insecure as the people who own it. Watch a short mockumentary about Brad above.
In Rebeaudengo’s imagined future, we don’t own anything — we just host it. Products are programmed to enjoy being used, and when their local network lets them know they’re being neglected compared to their neighbors, they can leave your house on their own accord.
As Rebaudengo points out, we’re not so far off from this vision of the future — think about Twitter pinging you every time you get a retweet, or Tumblr’s hilariously needy emails begging you to come back and use it when you’ve been a while. The only difference is that Brad has a body, so instead of making your phone vibrate when he wants use, he dolefully wiggles his handle. “When physical products will also be able to ‘speak up,’ there might be a battle for our attention on many fronts,” the designer told Wired.
According to Rebaudengo, though Brad himself may not see the light of day, the project points to the kinds of issues we may face as our day-to-day lives become more connected. Of this brave new frontier, he says, “I think the seamfulness of this will be much more interesting than the seamlessness.”