Podcast: Would you let a neuro-dating device determine your romantic future?

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Inventions / Love, Optimized / Press
Flash-Forward-Object-Solutions-NeurAlign

Visit a future where machines make couples fall in love faster: Our NeurAlign invention is the subject of the excellent podcast Flash Forward, where host Rose Eveleth interviews us, and asks experts (a neuroscientist-artist and a dating podcaster) how feasible this future really is. The burning question: Would you try it? LISTEN HERE

Love, Optimized at MIT

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Exhibitions / Live Appearances / Love, Optimized

In April and May, 2016, we launched Love, Optimized at the MIT Keller Gallery, as part of “The Contingent Space of Work,” curated by Nisa Ari and Christianna Bonin.

Seventy-five souls poured into the opening reception, and our very own Shelly Ronen, Chief Scientific Officer, immersed the audience in the Object Solutions vision (see video above). “Our broader goal is to turn life into a delicate choreography of specialized inventions.”

To see all the works from the show, take home our Love, Optimized book from the shop.

Vice Motherboard and Design Observer also had some lovely things to say about the show.

Photographs courtesy of James Addison, Ted Sands, Carly Nix and Kawandeep Virdee. Video courtesy of Ted Sands.

Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition Object Solutions – Love, Optimized – MIT Exhibition

To track Object Solutions from the comfort of your own home, join the mailing list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Support the project: take home our Love, Optimized book from the shop.

 

Design Observer: Love, Optimized

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Exhibitions / Live Appearances / Love, Optimized / Press

Written by Victoria Solan. Originally published on Design Observer.

The scene is familiar: a fourth-floor gallery, darkened, save for beams of light projected on art objects. Nearby, a film loop depicts young artists seriously contemplating their conceptual distance from a crew of Soviet janitors. The audience is earnest and bespectacled. In the jubilant tones of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Shelly Ronen introduces Love, Optimized, a coordinated series of sensors and apps designed to enhance human relations.

Ronen presents herself as the Chief Scientific Officer of Object Solutions, a firm that aims to lead the way in the romance segment of the Internet of Things. Sample products include the micro-drone Ring Finger Spotlight, which illuminates the presence of absence of an engagement ring or wedding band on the finger of a potential partner. The tiny device floats above the user’s ring finger, adapting the quality of light to signal whether the wearer is “flaunt mode, threat mode, or single mode.” Keeping up the high-tech sales patter, Ronen touts the appeal of the NeurAlign, a device which allows singles to sleep through first dates while a computer does the dreary work of assessing sexual and personal compatibility. Should a match be identified, Ronen tells her silent audience, the software prepares a “compelling neural narrative” of love, complete with shared memories and chemical triggers of satisfaction. Ronen is a PhD. candidate at NYU; her design collaborator is the Galveston-based designer Ernesto D. Morales.


Ring Finger Spotlight

Ronen and Morales’ entirely plausible Object Solutions partnership skewers the seriousness with which contemporary consumers hope technology might solve emotional problems. It’s all very tempting to believe that one’s inner life might be made easier by external technologies. After all, we live in a world where IDEO recently peddled a Death app and Shape magazine is urging readers to send in saliva samples for genetically-tailored fitness advice. Why not employ products like those detailed in Love, Optimized?

The Intimatum is a clever extension of the popular Nest smart thermostat. Shaped like a utility meter, the Intimatum is a functioning marital barometer which quantifies and records the expression of affection in a long-term relationship. The Intimatum, like a smoke alarm, alerts users to relationship problems before an awkward and costly professional intervention is needed, advises Ronen. Another hilarious product, TouchTrainer subtly enforces positive physical touches between partners based on biofeedback. Once again, awkward conversation is replaced with invisible digital signals. Sure, it’s fiction, but as Ronen and Morales remind us, once we check our gadgets at the door, we are nothing more or less than the stories we tell ourselves.


TouchTrainer 

To track Object Solutions from the comfort of your own home, join the mailing list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Support the project: take home our Love, Optimized book from the shop.

Motherboard: Wedding Ring Drones, Intimacy Meters, and Other Future Visions of Romance

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Exhibitions / Love, Optimized / Press

Written by Jon Christian. Originally published on Vice Motherboard.

Electrodes that attach to your skull to evaluate your compatibility with a potential mate. A personal drone that hovers nearby and shines a spotlight on your wedding band (in “flaunt mode,” it circles your ring finger using “twelve dramatic flyover techniques”). A smart home system that encourages closeness by rationing out internet access and drinking water depending on how much intimate time you’ve spent with your partner.

Those are a few of the ideas at “Love, Optimized,” a new exhibit at the MIT Keller Gallery in Cambridge, Mass, [part of “The Contingent Space of Work,” curated by Nisa Ari and Christianna Bonin.] The show, which feels like a cross between a Rube Goldberg diagram and a Harlan Ellison hellscape, explores potential future technologies that might come to mediate sex and romance—with a touch of whimsy and dread.

“How involved do we want corporations and technologies to be in our intimate lives?” asked “Love, Optimized” co-creator Shelly Ronen, as she made some final adjustments to the installation about an hour before the opening reception. “This is a vision of what could be if we really opened the floodgates and gave our lives over.”

“Love, Optimized” is the latest creation of Object Solutions, a satirical design consultancy that imagines fictional technologies that skewer consumerism and the technology industry. The show consists of large conceptual diagrams of the fictional romantic technologies—“TouchTrainer,” a sort of navigation system for sexual activity, is represented by two naked forms, each of which has been demarcated by Google Maps-style pin drops—accompanied by audio presentations in which Object Solutions founder Ernesto Morales plays the role of a salesman making a pitch and Ronen acts as a scientific consultant who makes a sociological case for each concept.

Like previous Object Solutions projects—memorable examples include a body-size moist towelette, a clothes dryer that uses leftover lint to produce new garments and a set of pajamas that slowly wakes you up using escalating electric shocks—the central conceit of the “Love, Optimized” show is that of imagining draconian solutions to trivial, or nonexistent, problems. The effect is something like an episode of “Black Mirror.”

“I create fictional products to reimagine our everyday world and consider whether consumer products are the desirable next steps,” Object Solutions founder Ernesto Morales told Motherboard in 2014. “I create imposed narratives that function much like advertising does: you are the hero of your own consumer story, and this product is your main supporting character.”

If you slammed your finger in a door latch, Morales said, Object Solutions wouldn’t propose a latch; he’d suggest special protective gloves for you to wear every time you walk through the door. In “Love, Optimized” he and Ronen bring the same lens to sex and dating—an already-stressful world that, of course, is already mediated by technology from Tinder to sex toys to the birth control pill.

Morales and Ronen met when they worked together at a design studio about five years ago. When Ronen moved on to academia—she’s currently a PhD candidate at New York University, where she’s working on a dissertation about sex technologies—the two started to talk about a collaboration under the banner of Object Solutions.

The pair start by creating lists of “problems” to which they then devise outrageous solutions. For the MIT show, they whittled the list down to four; Ronen estimates, though, that the collaboration resulted in 25 concepts that may eventually see the light of day.

“We wanted to push what’s possible right now to the very limits, to see what would fall out,” Ronen said, “either as a way of predicting the future, or also a way of provoking people to think about what kind of future they want to see.”

The Daily Beast: What if ‘The Onion’ Made Drones and Sex Toys?

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Love, Optimized / Press

The future of love is emerging. Rose Eveleth takes our latest Object Solutions for a spin. Find out just how near our inventions veer to reality.

Written by Rose Eveleth. Originally published on the Daily Beast.

Object Solutions is a dark, satirical take on the world of product development.

When it comes to technology, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish reality from parody. Was Peeple, the “Yelp for people” app, a joke or real? (Real.) Is Yo a joke? (No.) Is this reparations app real? (No, but it should be.) There are apps and devices bubbling up all around all the time-solving problems nobody ever knew they had. And it’s in this strange space that a little project called Object Solutions manages to be one of the most incisive critiques of technology around.

Object Solutions is a fake company, one that produces “solutions” for a variety of “problems” it has identified in the world.

The company is a dark, satirical take on the real machinations of product development; its creator, Ernesto Morales, is a designer and worked at a real product development studio for a spell. Past “solutions” include things like a “Full-Body Moist Towel,” which comes in a sleek black box and is, in fact, simply a wet towel inside beautiful packaging. Another invention is called the “Magnifying Spoon.” It’s a spoon, whose round end is a magnifying glass, to help picky eaters detect specks of dust and hair in their food.

Now, Morales has teamed up with sociologist Shelly Ronen, an expert on sex and relationships, and they’re creating “solutions” for romance. As with all of Object Solutions’s inventions, they take something that is almost plausible, and take it one step further. “I think we step into the space and expand it and try to press that feeling of, is this a joke? But is it? And really pushes in that place,” says Ronen.

In their presentations, Morales and Ronen trade off. He presents the sales pitch, and she takes the role of company scientist, substantiating each step with research and evidence.

Take the NeurAlign, a kind of reverse Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Two potential partners each don a neural mapping system, and doze off to sleep while the algorithms determine whether it’s a match. “If the merger is approved, the NeurAlign writes a compelling neural narrative of your falling in love,” Morales explains. “It triggers irresistible chemical releases, forges inextricable connections, and simulates indisputable memories that will follow you for a lifetime together. When you wake, your first date can commence as though it were your thirtieth. It’s an algorithmic—and rhythmic, too—manipulation of romantic reality.”

Ronen follows. “Following from neurologically mediated machinery for checking partner compatibility, this technology will entirely eradicate emotional maladaptive behaviors, and will culminate in the simplification of romance and seduction to an efficient algorithmic tournament.”

It’s not hard to walk this back a few steps to the emphasis so many online dating sites put on their algorithm. OKCupid’s Christian Rudder has made a career talking about how statistics and algorithms create matches. Jon Morra from eHarmony has given presentations about how machine learning can be deployed to find love. His talk is titled “Finding Love Through Science.” The Match.com algorithm is named “Synapse.” And there are independent projects in the works now that aim to use brain waves to match potential lovers.

Or take another Object Solutions invention: the Ring Finger Spotlight, a tiny drone that follows your hand around to illuminate the existence or absence of a wedding ring. The device comes with four modes: Commitment, Flaunt, Threat, and Single.

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Objects of Affection: Inventions from our workshops, Episode 3

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Love, Optimized / Workshops
Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

Love × Design × Play

At our design fiction workshops, strangers pair up to invent their way out of love troubles. It’s a creative card game: You partner up and brainstorm inventions to solve everyday love troubles. You draw up a quick blueprint, and you post it on the wall so we can all imagine the future of love – optimized.

These are a few of creations from workshops, including emotional dinnerware, connected underwear, and third-party romantic approval.

Host an Object Solutions workshop of your own. Contact Ernesto or join our mailing list to jump in. Learn more about how it works.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop
Tandem Coffin

“Where resentment goes to die”

Context: Cohabitation
Challenge: Merging domestic worlds
Laboratorians: Chris & Dane

Redesigning domestic disputes through virtual resurrections

As resentments build over time, your smart home detects the optimal time to enter the Tandem Coffin. The enclosure helps resolve your issues through a simulated reality, where you and your lover live in balance harmony. The Coffin is a rejuvenation of your relationship, where resentment goes to die. The Coffin resides in the garden, where you both enter and are submerged into a visual and audio experience of domestic bliss, tailored to your specific issues.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop
Trustware

“Eat Your Traumas” 

Context: Trust
Challenge: Letting go of the past
Laboratorians: Nick & Marshall

Everybody needs to eat. Everybody has pain and traumas in their past that they need to let go in order to have a healthy relationship. Therefore, everybody needs Trustware.

Trustware is personalized silverware engraved with your traumas. Upon commencing a new relationship, your past will immediately become apparent to your partner: they see it every time you eat. Over time, if the relationship continues, your traumas will become mixed in the silverware drawer. Perhaps you will even create new pieces of Trustware as a couple.

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Objects of Affection: Inventions from our workshops, Episode 2

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Love, Optimized / Workshops
Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

As springtime approaches, so does the Future of Love.

At our design fiction workshops, strangers pair up to invent their way out of love troubles. They engage Object Solutions’ mode of critical play, and their imagined futures are as funny as they are fearsome.

These are a few of their creations, including precoital pinpricks, quality time enforcement, and the foul stench of breakups.

Host an Object Solutions workshop of your own. Contact Ernesto or join our mailing list to jump in. Learn more about how it works.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

LoveTravels.com

“Invest in Love”

Context: Long-Distance
Challenge: Reducing travel time and expense
Laboratorians: Dane & Joe 

A website that connects long-distance lovers with companies for corporate sponsorship. People in long-distance relationships create a profile with promised actions for each level of investment. These actions focus on advertisement for these companies. For example, if the company donates plane tickets, the traveler will carry a suitcase with high-quality LED ads promoting the product. 

“Ask me how _____ is sponsoring my love life.”

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop
Sting Ring

Context: Physical Intimacy
Challenge: Avoiding disease and pregnancy
Laboratorians: Julia & Bennett

The Sting Ring is worn on the finger. When considering engaging in copulation with a potential romantic partner, alleviate anxiety with the Sting Ring’s rapid STD test. The reading will change color to reveal partners’ STD status: Green For Clean, Red No Bed.

Bonus: Hidden compartment contains Plan B.

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Objects of Affection: Inventions from our workshops, Episode 1

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Love, Optimized / Workshops
Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

An optimized romantic future draws irresistibly near.

At our design fiction workshops, strangers pair up to invent their way out of love troubles. They engage Object Solutions’ mode of critical play, and their imagined futures are as funny as they are fearsome.

These are a few of their creations, including immersive dreams, surveillant clothing and more.

Host an Object Solutions workshop of your own. Contact Ernesto or join our mailing list to jump in. Learn more about how it works.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop
Dream Big Box

Context: Dating
Challenge: Requesting exclusivity
Laboratorians: Leah & Chris 

“Will You Dream Big With Me?”

When you’re ready to broach the subtle subject of moving from casual dating to serious exclusivity, just give the gift of fantastical storytelling in the tiny projection screen of the Dream Big Box. The small box opens and projects a huge dream sequence of how happy you both will be when you decide to go steady.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop
Tech Chastity
 

Context: Trust
Challenge: Preventing infidelity
Laboratorians: Chris & Renée

Smart clothing line that monitors physical attraction to friends or strangers.
—When the clothing senses that you are attracted to someone who is not your partner, it locks the zippers and buttons on your shirts, pants and skirts – or otherwise takes any measure necessary to prevent removal of clothing.
—We also offer smart necklaces that would release a skunk odor when they sense high attraction levels.
—We are working on repellent chapstick.

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Motherboard: Electric Shock Pajamas (and Other Hypothetical Sleep Solutions)

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A Perfect Slumber / Press

Written by Rachel Pick. Originally published on Motherboard.

“Welcome to a world of problems, solved.” This is the cultlike slogan of Object Solutions, a “fictional design” studio that provides hyper-specific solutions to everyday annoyances.

Headed by artist and designer Ernesto Morales, Object Solutions doesn’t actually mass-produce its inventions, but uses them to prove a satirical point about the design world’s constant reach to solve problems with objects—problems we could solve perfectly well on our own.

As Morales told Motherboard back in 2014, “I introduce a mediating technology to fill the gap between the user and the existing world, which in turn creates more gaps that are ready to be filled by a new Object Solution. By creating this ‘world of problems, solved,’ I mean to call attention to this tendency in product design: filling ever more gaps with ever more external tools.” One previous project was a moist towelette the size of a bath towel, because “life offers an onslaught of filth at every turn.”

Object Solutions has also developed a series of three products designed to optimize the sleep-and-wakefulness cycle. In honor of Motherboard’s “You’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” theme week, I’ve ranked them from most plausibly useful to most absurd.

First are the Morning Panic Pajamas, which deliver an electric shock to the wearer, increasing in strength until you have to strip them off in a frenzy and face the new day naked and pissed off. I’ve mostly conquered my addiction to the snooze button, but overindulgence did cause some minor fiascos in my younger days. I’ve often wished for the alarm clock that runs away from you, and electric pajamas might solve the problem just as well. They’d also probably sell well within certain fetish communities, but that’s beside the point.

Second: the Sleep Achievement Medal. An LED display worn on a lanyard around your neck, it displays the number of hours of sleep you got the previous night, making your wearable’s collected sleep data public. This way, friends and coworkers know exactly how useful or useless you’ll be to them that day, depending on whether you got a refreshing 9 hours or a scant 1.

This might preempt a great deal of whining, but a series of sleepless nights in a row might cause your boss to start asking questions. After all, the sleep medal doesn’t differentiate between a night spent at a warehouse rave and a night simply tossing and turning.

And then there’s the Runaway Blanket, designed to mimic a bedmate tugging the covers off of you when you’re sleeping alone, whether because your partner is away or because you’re presently single. But Christ, who would miss that?

To track Object Solutions from the comfort of your own home, join the mailing list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Support the project: visit our shop for real-life products and books.

How to Design the Future of Love

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Live Appearances / Love, Optimized / Workshops
Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

We’re looking for people to host and partake in our new workshop series, Designing the Future of Love. Take a look below, and contact Ernesto or join our mailing list to jump aboard.

A Workshop of Problems, Solved

Perhaps you’re familiar with Object Solutions, your guides to an optimized future.

In our workshops, we invite participants to play laboratorians for the evening, envisioning the high-tech future of romantic relationships. Participants dissect romantic challenges and create their own Object Solutions to address them. In this imagined Future of Love, couples enjoy only the rewards of romance and none of its obstacles. Instead, they’ve outsourced their issues to our laboratory. With each new obstacle, they need only obtain the designated Object Solution.

Participants engage in our mode of critical play, and their imagined futures are clever, comic and chilling. Picture your romantic moments studded with surveillant clothing and precoital pinpricks.

The workshop experience examines the role technology plays in intimate settings. In today’s market, new products and services continue to breach the realm of relationships – from dating profile optimization to algorithmic divorce assistance. By putting more people at the design helm, we upturn this natural order: our future visions become a means of discussing potential realities before they get handed down to us. We engage in what designer Anthony Dunne calls “design for debate,” where we move “away from thinking about technological applications to technological implications.”

Design meets storytelling, play meets criticism, social practice meets speed dating – and together we meet the Future of Love.

All’s Fair in Love and Invention

Once you find your seats, we give a taste of how you can use design to rethink reality and engage debate. We present our recent romantic inventions and arm you with our design methodology.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

As with speed dating, you couple briefly with the person across from you and then rotate to the next partner. Each partnership receives a romantic challenge to solve. Your packet of materials helps spark your imagination and envision your final creations.

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

When the buzzer goes off, you have thirty precious minutes together. How will you approach the challenges of finding a match, declaring love, introducing key stakeholders and committing for life?

After each person completes three rounds of invention, we gather in the Reception Area. All the ideas are on the wall, and it’s time to step back and discuss the future you’ve created. What does love look like when it’s administered by Object Solutions?

Object Solutions – Designing the Future of Love – Workshop

See what participants have devised:

A – Surveillant clothing and immersive dreams
B – Precoital pinpricks and the foul stench of breakups
C – Emotional dinnerware and connected underwear

Ready to play laboratorian?

Contact Ernesto to set up a workshop in your area. Stay in the loop: Join our mailing list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Object Solutions

Welcome to a world of problems, solved. Object Solutions wears the mask of a design consultancy that prescribes narratives of an optimized future. With a dose of dark humor, we dissect everyday challenges and propose technological solutions for each point of imperfection.