Block is a fancy Faraday cage to take your dinner party offline

A group of Dutch entrepreneurs is hoping to build a business out of helping smartphone users manage their device addiction — via a Faraday cage housed inside a fancy looking hexagonal aluminum case designed to accommodate up to six handsets at a time. So enough space to take an entire dinner party offline.

The case, called Block, is up for pre-order at this point, priced at €99 (~$105). The team is aiming to fund the first manufacturing run via pre-orders, in much the same manner as crowdfunding sites — which means their exact shipping date is tbc at this point.

“Depending on our first volume, in six to eight weeks,” Block’s Sidney John Vollmer tells TechCrunch, adding: “But things are looking up, so we might just make it for Christmas!”

The team has spent almost a year developing Block so far — part-funded by mobile operator T-Mobile’s Future Lab in Holland, and making use of the lab’s facilities to test the effectiveness of their Faraday cage at cutting cellular connectivity — but Vollmer says the majority of their time and effort on Block has been bootstrapping.

It’s not the first attempt to sell smartphone users their own personal Faraday cage for taking their device off the grid. Although others we’ve seen — such as Off Pocket’s fabric privacy pouch and the super similar UnPocket from fashion brand The Affair — have tended to be more focused on individuals with privacy concerns.

Block is being positioned more for social scenarios — so for people wanting to stop smartphones interfering with face-to-face conversations and offline socializing among groups of friends. The team is also hoping to get interest from restaurants and hotels wanting to offer customers a phone-free experience.

“We feel like we lack infrastructure to counter our digital addictions. We feel like the next big thing, the next big market, will be the disconnect,” says Vollmer. “We think we’re slowly realizing we’re getting more than we bargained for with our use of the personal/digital. The equilibrium is long gone.”

“We may not be the first product of this category in the market, but we’re certainly the most beautiful,” he adds. “The disconnect will become a new segment of products, especially with IoT around the corner. With the right kind of attention and a big corporate partner we just might pull it off and get Block into many many households. We just might help people find some more balance, pulling them back from the hamster wheels under their thumbs, back to their friends at the dining table. There is another way. At least we think so.”