Google’s OnHub project is all about making Wi-Fi–and therefore, Google itself–better in people’s houses. Google hopes to achieve that by making OnHub software simple and powerful, but an equally critical part of the initiative is convincing customers to put their routers in highly visible places in their homes, so their antennas can operate with minimum interference.
It’s a potentially hard sell. Routers are traditionally pretty ugly, and while the OnHub routers are much more attractive, they’re still visible objects of cold technology. But today, Google is announcing Shells for OnHub, which allows customers to give their TP-Link OnHub router wildly different new looks. And to show off what you can do with Shells, they tasked 18 different artists to create designs that disguise the OnHub as a slinky, a lamp, a fruit bowl, and more–some of which will be available for sale.
The project is a sort of analog to what Google has done with its self-driving cars. For the first round of router concepts, Google asked artists and design studios such as Andrew Bannecker, Andy Gilmore, Doug Johnstone, Brook&Lyn, Bower, Katie Stout, and more to come up with shells for the TP-Link OnHub that would encourage customers to place the router in the center of their homes. The goal was to showcase how utterly customizable the Hub can be: with the proper shell, Google thinks the OnHub can be the design centerpiece of any room.
Google clearly hopes to create a cottage industry with its OnHub shells. A few of these shells–Doug Johnston’s red, white, and blue mitt, Brook&Lyn’s slinky, Bower’s little table shell, and more–will go on sale soon. For other makers, Google is releasing a packet of 3-D files, 2-D patterns, and design guidelines, which will encourage anyone to create their own shell. If it takes off, you could be buying clothes for your OnHub router on Etsy.
In addition to showing off its fun and frothy Maker shells, Google is also now selling three official shells. Available in bamboo, black and silver, and white and gold for between $29 and $39, they’re all super blah, especially compared to the designer shells. It just goes to show that Google’s on to something here: tech companies are certainly good at building routers, but they shouldn’t be the ones designing them.
You can read more about OnHub Makers here.