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.