The Creepiest Internet Router Reads Websites Aloud Like A Sociopath

This art project reminds us that our digital world is really very strange, and not always all that safe.

Imagine telling someone 100 years ago: Things get pretty easy. You’ll spend most of your day in a chair. So some people just choose to stand. Rather than talk, you’ll push 104 different buttons on a machine to share information and convey intent. Oh, but if you want to listen to Kanye’s new record at release, you’ll have to subscribe to Tidal. Tidal!!


The online world is a weird construct, and it’s easy to forget that links and webpages are really just code ping-ponging through wires–that is, until you see a project like Poetic Router, by designer Saurabh Datta, recently highlighted by Creative Applications. It’s a machine that sits between your normal Internet router and your phone, laptop, or other device connecting to the Internet.

As it streams websites and other data to these devices, it reads the information aloud. And so blog posts, advertisements, and various metadata is deconstructed from the composed multimedia you see on your screen to a droning automaton’s voice. (The voice is actually a text-to-speech engine that passes through an FM transmitter, which gives the entire audioscape an unsettling buzz of surveillance.)

It’s more than a little creepy, but you’re supposed to find this whole experience disquieting. As Datta explains on the project page, Poetic Router illustrates that not much or your information is safe in the information age: “Every “Chip-‘ed” device is hackable from the dark perspective and can be jacked and modded remotely. Packets can be monitored and injected and used to retrieve information or deliver daemons on unencrypted channels.”

In other words, even as you stare at that office plant with Wolves on repeat, sipping Keurig coffee while contemplating your next BuzzFeed quiz, know that 100 years of progress has come with its own pile of strange costs. Oh, and a tinfoil hat does nothing to block hackers.

All Images: via Saurabh Datta

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.