People built tables, restaurants gave discounts, Taiwanese designers even made a weird bib to try to stop the ubiquitous, irritating habit we have all developed of using electronics during dinner. But an Australian pasta sauce maker has taken extreme steps to curb the behavior. Dolmio, which sells jars of pasta sauce as well some prepackaged dinners, didn’t think families appreciated each other enough during dinner, so they developed a pepper grinder that will shut down all the electronics in your household. But there's a twist: The Pepper Hacker does actually grind pepper for your pasta and salads, but it has hardware hidden inside that sends messages to televisions, Wi-Fi routers and even cellphones and shuts them down for 30 minutes at a time.
Now, the Pepper Hacker is not an electromagnetic pulse machine—it can’t short-circuit anything in your house. Anything you want powered off needs to be hooked into a main power hub, and cellphones need to get connected to AirWatch, a mobile phone management app that can lock down a phone remotely. That last part seems a bit like cheating, but other cellphone-jamming technology is actually illegal.
Dolmio and Clemenger BBDO, the creative agency working with them on the project, admit that the Pepper Hacker is limited to a few prototype models right now. But they insist it is a very real product that they may enter into design competitions around the world. Even if it’s just a symbol for how so many of us eat now, it ought to spark a few actual conversations over the dinner table. And that definitely sounds preferable to all the live tweeting over the dinner table we currently have.