Traditionally, routers are not our most attractive pieces of technology. Even in our shabbiest starter apartments we feel compelled to tuck them away on top of a bookshelf or next to slightly better-looking gaming consoles (as if one black box can really distract from the ugliness of another black box). Also, routers are confusing and unnecessarily enigmatic; when our internet's being a jerk, they don't tell us, say, why Netflix won't load or why the wi-fi seems slower on our phones today versus on our laptops. Why does something so essential to our daily lives have to look so horrible and be so user-hostile? It's a question Finnish industrial designer Pinja Piira hopes to answer with her sleek wi-fi router, BOB.
Piira, who has just finished a master's degree in Design Products from London's Royal College of Art, approaches design with an eye toward how our digital lives can inform our physical spaces. "Nowadays, products don't live in just one place; they have both a digital and a physical presence," she says. "Both of those spaces should be designed in a way that the product is as easy to understand and as pleasing and joyful to use as possible."
The BOB wi-fi router is indeed a cheerful little device. The simple gray cube features a large yellow inlay on one side and a smaller yellow circle on another that keeps all the necessary cords organized (i.e., not in a tangled mess). In addition, Piira has designed an app that allows users to view a digital rendering of their incoming data.
"With the BOB app, users can visualize their available bandwidth, which is usually smaller than what the service providers promise us, as well as other current users of the network," Piira explains.
The BOB app also displays bubbles of color that demonstrate how much bandwidth each device in your home is using. Users can prioritize how much data a certain device is receiving by changing the size of the bubbles. If you're playing music in the kitchen while cooking, you can enlarge your laptop's bubble in the app. If you're gaming online and want more bandwidth for your PS4, well, the BOB app can help with that, too.
"Product design is mostly about solving everyday problems," Piira says. "Visibility and openness are the best ways to create systems that are easy to understand. Internet service providers do us a terrible disservice by offering those ugly, dull boxes, and they are able to rip us off by not visualizing the state of the current service. We have no idea if we receive the bandwidth we've paid for."
Plus, the BOB router is just kind of cute.
The BOB wi-fi router isn't available for sale just yet, but you can learn more about it and Pinja Piira's other innovative projects at pinjapiira.com.