Last year, an ad campaign from the European food producer Dolmio dreamt up a solution to the problem of technological distractions at the dinner table: a Wi-Fi-blocking pepper grinder that could fight back against the devices that had "hijacked family dinner."
One twist of this so-called "Pepper Hacker" would shut down Wi-Fi and temporarily disable televisions and mobile devices, a high-tech solution to a high-tech problem. The company even gave prototype Pepper Hackers to some "frustrated moms" who also hid cameras above their tables in order to participate in what the company called a "social experiment." Tantrums ensued when the Pepper Hacker was deployed, but once the food was on the table and the devices had been abandoned, a much more pleasant family dinner took place.
The Hacker struck a nerve. The campaign was so successful—with more than 80 million views of the online video—that the company decided to give the people what they want. They've brought the Pepper Hacker to life, and now the company is giving away a few thousand of the Wi-Fi eaters to lucky customers in Australia who enter the contest between August 24 and September 27.
The Pepper Hacker works by using its own "dinnertime" Wi-Fi network to supersede any other Wi-Fi in the house. Any device that tries to connect to Wi-Fi will get rerouted to the "dinnertime" network, which will only display a snarky message when someone attempts to access the web: "It’s family dinnertime and the internet is not invited." The grinder has a rechargeable battery that's good for up to six 30-minute dinners (and you can actually use it to grind pepper too).
There are other ways to make your home a Wi-Fi-free haven during meals, but the Pepper Hacker's silly conceptual origins make it charming. Who knew we'd need a high-tech device to make today's smart home a little dumber?
[Peppercorns: Flickr user Katia Christakis]