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.+
I’ve written here before about my Fake TV, one of my favorite device purchases from last year. It’s a simple, compact box covered with multicolor LED lights that emulates the effect of a television illuminating a dark room. The idea is to deter prospective burglars by giving the impression that someone is at home.
That same concept is at the heart of Kevin, a new device being funded through this just-launched Kickstarter campaign. Taking its name from Macaulay Culkin’s character in the immortal “Home Alone,” Kevin is what you might call a “smart fake TV.” That means it’s a wifi enabled, internet of things-y, fancy schmancy design object with richer, more varied, and more intelligent light emulation routines than my Fake TV. It also takes the illusion even further by including a variety of ersatz audio—there are sounds that give would-be intruders the impression that the family is home, having dinner, rooting for a favorite team during a big game, enjoying a movie, or even exercising strenuously. Everything can be controlled through Kevin’s mobile app (which looks copiously illustrated in the de rigeur tech aesthetic I wrote about a few weeks ago). This video demonstrates Kevin in action:
The basic technology at the heart of Kevin—programmable LEDs and playback of prerecorded sounds—is straightforward enough that it seems like a relatively low-risk Kickstarter gamble. Its network capabilities also suggest that buying several of them would make for a pretty convincing solution for an entire home; you can imagine programming three or four of them to simulate a fully active household. Kevin also sports a much, much more attractive industrial design than the hideous Fake TV; it looks as good as any Sonos or smart speaker, at least in the press photos. But, at about US$200 each, Kevin is also roughly many times as expensive as a Fake TV. If that doesn’t discourage you, you can back the campaign at kickstarter.com.+