Research and Design House is Decoding How Phones Impact Our Humanity

With a vision for human-oriented solutions, Vinaya explores human connectivity through philosophical inquiry and smart product design

Technology makes us more efficient, expands our social networks and feeds us more information, but at what cost? This November, a team of scientists, designers and engineers will begin working together to answer this question.Vinaya is a research lab and design studio that explores the relationship between humans and technology, and seeks out the balance that will lead us to happiness.

Along the way, Vinaya is pioneering a human-centric approach in product development. In a three-story building in Shoreditch, East London, a team of philosophers, anthropologists and neuroscientists will conduct extensive research on the human condition.

Their research on human connectivity, stress, tranquility, and creativity will be compiled and used in the design process, where designers and researchers will work on creating mindful consumer technology for the public.

Founder and CEO Kate Unsworth has already ventured in the world of mindful technologies with Kovert Designs, but the new Vinaya brand will develop an ecosystem around an existing and evolving set of products with the support of a recent $3M in seed funding from an impressive list of all-female investors—most notably, Carmen Busquets, the well-known major investor in Net-A-Porter.

Already, Altruis—Vinaya’s line of designer wearable tech—reduces our dependency on smartphones by silencing unnecessary notifications. The rings, bracelets, and necklaces pair seamlessly with your device to let you know when you really should look at your phone. With the launch of Vinaya, a software-based application and a new men’s line are expected to start rolling out in the next two years.

In an interview with PSFK, Unsworth also explained that the lab will publish a quarterly journal on their research as well as conceptual product ideas. While research is typically done on the back end, Vinaya will make their scientific findings available to the public, partnering with universities and academics to create articles and blog posts that are both scholarly and easy to access for the typical reader.

In a fashion similar to the socratic discussions of Ancient Greece, the building’s top floor will be home to a weekly lecture series and public experiments. Here, researchers, product developers, and consumers will come together to exchange ideas and learn from each other. It’s an innovation district on a micro-scale, a cross-functional space where face-to-face interaction will fuse theoretical and practical knowledge.

Vinaya’s operations will run on the basis that the right technology, paired with a theory of happiness, can help users explore and achieve a state of ‘ataraxia.’ Coined by ancient greek philosophers, this “lucid state of robust tranquility” is surely a condition to strive for. But thanks to our phones and the distractions they can bring, it’s a feeling that often eludes us.

For this reason, Vinaya will focus particularly on how our relationship with our smartphone negatively impacts our ability to be human. But rather than dismiss technology and the obvious benefits that it brings, the lab hopes to use it for a new purpose. That is, to reach a philosophically sound, yet technologically enhanced, state that will facilitate meaningful human experiences.

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