Telekom Room


Home Offline Concierge

Cooperational university project with Deutsche Telekom and in teamwork with designer Sebastian Hahn, Winter 2012


Disclaimer: Due to non-disclosure agreements with Deutsche Telekom I am not permitted to describe this project in detail.

When Deutsche Telekom approached us to explore the Smart Home realm, Basti and I started to have plenty of long conversations with other students, professors, friends and family about their daily consumption of online media and services, especially in their homes. We created an online survey to validate an assumption we started to have and couldn’t stop thinking about: We love the internet. And sometimes we need a break from it but we can’t do it by ourselves because we, well, love the internet.

With the insights we had won we decided to focus our project on what today, 6 years later, would be called digital wellbeing, as recently introduced by Apple and Google (unfortunately, we learned only later about Tristan Harris’ fantastic work on this topic)

Telekom Room consists of a small decorative piece of hardware, the Hub, and an app. When touching the Hub, all connected devices you previously selected in the Room app are disconnected from the internet – only seemingly though. You still receive messages, calls and notifications, but only after you touch the Hub again and it stops glowing.

Once you’re in Room mode, the app has two functions:

First, it shows you a list of things you said you would like to do, for example finishing that book you started reading months ago (but you didn’t because Instagram and Netflix). Now is the time to do that, free of distractions.

Second, it visualizes the time you’ve spent online (and offline). You can define how much time you want to spend online per day so that the app can give you gentle nudges after trespassing the time limit. If you open the Facebook app for example, it will simply ask you: “Are you sure you want to do this?”.

So why do we need the hardware? We might live in a very digital world but we humans still love the analog and tactile. The Hub has a strong signaling effect towards yourself - I’m spending quality time - and other people around you - she is spending quality time, I’d better not disturb.

This doesn’t make sense. We’re a telecommunication company, why would we want people to not use the internet?
— Jury member Deutsche Telekom