A while ago I made a smart mirror for my bathroom. Maybe you’ve seen it. It started with a particular image in my mind. I wanted to build a piece of technology for the home that feels new and futuristic, yet simple and clean. The mirror blends in seamlessly with its environment and doesn’t aggressively compete for my attention. I wrote about how it works and the parts I used, source code included.
On September 23, 2019, at exactly 4:55 p.m., I ran around my house frantically switching off anything that uses electrical power. First I tackled the obvious things — I turned off as many lights as I could, set my Nest thermostat to a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and made sure my dishwasher and dryer weren’t running.
I then turned to the less obvious items — pulling the plug on nonessential routers, home automation hubs, and the other little, glowing energy vampires that have slowly taken up residence on every surge protector in my home and garage. By 5:00 p.m., my…
Screens live a double life. They serve us dense information in bright colors, only to transform back into black mirrors. We have gotten used to it, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
As more and more connected devices arrive in our homes, it’s a good time to remember the principles of Calm Technology, first formulated at Xerox PARC in 1995. They talk about how technology should respect our attention and remain in the background most of the time, how relevant information should be presented calmly and make use of the periphery.
There’s something special about the layout of a print-edition newspaper. A news website has infinite vertical scrolling space, but a printed front page is fixed to the same size every day. This constraint creates a very particular aesthetic and — if done well — a sense of typographic balance.
I wanted to preserve this analog feeling and infuse it with the possibilities of smart home technology. That’s why I made Paper, a radically simple prototype that does exactly one thing: show today’s front page on a large e-paper display.