Sit on This DRM Chair Eight Times, Then Realize How Stupid DRM Can Be
At its best, digital rights management (DRM) is an inconvenience. At its worst, DRM is a reminder that the companies selling you digital products don’t trust you not to pirate them, and that they’re willing to deliberately, actively make those products worse to keep you from sharing them. DRM is so pervasive in the digital things we buy that we rarely think about it, but what if it bled over into the physical world? Meet the DRM Chair. It’s a chair that only lets you sit in it eight times before it self destructs, and it makes about as much sense as most other forms of DRM I’ve seen.
The DRM chair is the product of The Deconstruction, which calls itself, “a light-hearted competition/game, but it’s really more of a large-scale collaboration between friends, teams, and the public,” on its website. It was made by the team Les Sugus which is comprised of current and former students of the University of Art and Design Lausanne. So what was Les Sugus deconstructing to make the DRM chair? Musical chairs. Obviously.
That makes sense. In theory, several of these chairs could be set out, each programmed to self-destruct after a different number of sittings, thus eliminating one chair automatically every round. Of course, the deconstructed chair parts would be an awful tripping hazard and really up the danger level of the game.
The workings of the DRM chair — like the workings of most chairs, DRM protected or not — are pretty simple. The chair is wired with a switch connected to an arduino board that counts the number of someone takes a seat in the chair. When someone gets up from the chair, a solenoid taps the wood to audibly let you know how many sittings are left. The joints are fused with wax, and in those wax joints are pieces of nichrome wire. When the counter reaches zero, the chair runs electricity through the wire, the wires heat the wax, and the chair goes all to pieces.
You can see a video of the chair in action below:
This design takes the ideas of planned obsolescence to an absurd degree, but it borders on being something that companies could actually get behind. Just imagine if you could experience all the fun of putting together an IKEA chair every fifth time you sat in it!