is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Not every gadget needs to be an amazing technological breakthrough in order to delight. A case in point is the FakeTV that I bought just before heading out on vacation with my family in July. It’s such a simple and necessary device that it might be my favorite thing I’ve bought this year; if nothing else, it’s the one that’s made for the most amusing conversational fodder.
Like the name says, the FakeTV is literally a fake television; a little plastic box about the size of an alarm clock. Its facade is festooned with a grid of LEDs that continually light up a dark room with a rotating, random display of colors. Seen from the street, the light show it projects on your walls and ceiling is indistinguishable from the way a living room is illuminated when there are real people watching a real television. It has a light sensor too, so it only turns on when a room is darkened, and it draws about the same amount of power as a night light.
If you hadn’t guessed, the purpose of the FakeTV is to deter burglaries. We had a break-in about a year ago so we consider every safety measure, and while we already had an Internet-connected alarm system wired throughout the house, the idea of leaving our home unoccupied while we were on holiday felt a little less unsettling once I installed this device. It’s very convincing. There have even been times when, coming home late, I’ve been fooled into thinking someone was still awake in the living room.
For around US$20 (I bought the “top of the line” model for US$30), it’s a bargain, even if the cheap fit and finish suggests the device only amounts to about five dollars’ worth of electronics and plastics. Unfortunately it’s also incredibly ugly. Find out more at the commensurately inelegant site faketv.com. Also, if you buy it through this Amazon link, I get a little kickback.+