Science fiction is usually the province of filmmakers and novelists. But designers can get in on the action too, imagining products and services to meet needs that don’t quite yet exist, but could soon. Ludwig Zeller has done exactly that with his Dromolux, a speed-reading training device that flashes single words onscreen in quick strobing succession. Who would want or need such a thing? Imagine the constantly texting, teenaged “digital native” of today, but 60 years in the future, when he or she is fighting off the inevitable cognitive decline that comes with advanced age. If they want to maintain their ability to read and scan 15 different media at once, they’ll need to work at it.
“A strobe light is used to create a subliminal reading effect,” Zeller tells Co.Design.
Zeller sees the Dromolux as a kind of speculative cognitive enhancer. “If you became aware of your increasing dementia, what would you do?” he writes. “Used together with appropriate medication [Dromolux] could help people to fight cognitive deterioration, or increase their abilities to never before seen levels.”
Like the weird-but-kind-of-plausible work of Revital Cohen, Zeller’s creation is intended to provoke interesting conversation and debate rather than work exactly as advertised. That said, it is a functioning prototype and he has tried it on himself. “Obviously I am not a neuroscientist,” Zeller tells Co.Design. “I am developing the functionalities to a point where the core concept can be experienced in order to create a stronger visualisation of the idea.” He says that reading rates up to 18 words per second can be achieved with the device. Imagine an old folks’ home festooned with these flickering devices — it sounds pretty dystopian, but maybe that’s just because we’re already behind the curve.