In this day and age, it feel like an impossible task to bring your family together for a simple meal. It’s tough to connect when your loved ones seem more interested in browsing Facebook than having a conversation.
A nifty device called the Pepper Hacker aims to solve this first-world problem. Cleverly disguised as an ordinary pepper mill (though it does actually grind pepper) it has the power to shut down WiFi routers, TVs, and mobile phones for 30 minutes per twist.
It takes just one twist to buy your household a little time away from the daily grind of updating Instagram and refreshing Twitter. Or so the Pepper Hacker’s creator, Australian pasta sauce maker Dolmio, hopes.
(We noticed that there’s no matching salt shaker, and can only assume it's because diners will be salting their meals with WiFi-deprived tears.)
The Pepper Hacker isn't a magical device by any means: All electronics you hope grind to a halt need to be hooked into a central hub, except for phones, which can be disabled using the AirWatch mobility management app. Ultimately, this is just another approach to controlling connected devices in a smart home, focusing on motherly exasperation instead of buzzy phrases like "the Internet of Things."
Shutting off screens for some real life face time is a commendable goal, and it addresses a real need. But with that said, even if the Pepper Hacker progresses beyond the prototype phase—a spokesperson for Dolmio recently assured Food and Wine that it’s a very real product—we’re not buying it.
With great power comes great responsibility, and we hope that whoever wields the Pepper Hacker takes that truism to heart. Has your laptop ever shut down unexpectedly mid-download or crashed while you're in the middle of working on a project? It sucks.
Now imagine it's your dad—not your device—that's betrayed you. Sounds like screen-free family warfare is on the menu.
On the flip side we have logistical issues. Hooking everything into a hub sounds like a serious annoyance, but the bigger problem is the phones—probably the most distracting devices. Pepper Hacker users will have to make sure the AirWatch app is installed on everyone’s phones, and trust that their moody teenagers won’t simply delete it.
Finally, while hiding this tech inside a working pepper grinder sounds quirky and fun, we’re not sure it'll work so well in the real world. For one thing, most of us already have a grinder—how many does a kitchen really need? For another, what if someone wants to grind pepper without, y'know, shutting off everyone's gear? We can’t help but feel an ordinary home connectivity button might be a more elegant (if less flavorful) solution.
Still, we’re curious to see if Dolmio’s Pepper Hacker prototype ever evolves into a real product, and whether it undergoes any significant changes along the way.