There is something about interacting with a physical product that makes the experience feel more connected, an app falls short of matching this quality. Antenna is a Bluetooth speaker and radio that has made full use of physical interaction and has maximized intuitive usability in the process!
The buttons, switches and dials that clutter the design of many radios have been replaced by a single ‘antenna’. The device is controlled through a series of actions that each revolve around the brightly colored antenna; by pushing, pulling and rotating the ball, common commands including the volume and frequency can be adjusted.
There is something so intriguing about the simplistic design; the over-sized dial brings an element of playfulness to the product, giving it a fun and appealing aesthetic that encourages physical interaction. It’s great to see a speaker that doesn’t rely on an impersonal smart-phone application.
Designer: Jaekyu Jung
“The ‘antenna’ provides the means of controlling the power, frequency and volume. To turn the power on, the user must grasp the ball gently and pull it upwards. To manually adjust the frequency, the user must lightly push the controller to the left or right. For automatic frequency adjustment, the controller must be pushed left or right for an extended period of time. To adjust the volume, the user must hold the ball and turn it to the left or right. At the front of the radio is a speaker with hidden lighting for frequency, and volume information review,” explains Jung.
This product oozes sophistication, quality and a high level of refinement, that have each been captured within a device that doesn’t shout about its presence… this is the Microphone Speaker by Zhao Hu.
Unlike conventional microphones, this device carries a far more considered aesthetic, that been achieved through its soft, flowing curves and muted colors. Consisting of three, equally as beautiful components, the microphone, charging base and the main base, that each carries dedicated functions to enhance the performance of the product! The microphone gently connects to the magnetic charging base, that features a series of buttons on its underside for quick changes to the audio! Whilst on first glance it may appear that the large, translucent part of the product is simply somewhere to store the product, you’d actually be wrong… and the Type-C charging port towards the bottom is the first give-away! It is a hollow stand that has been implemented to increase the bass effect in the audio; the sound escapes from the speaker-hole on the underside of the component.
Designer: Zhao Hu
Cavalier’s approach to audio is best described as classic. It uses classic materials and styles to create audio devices that don’t look particularly uber-tech. The Air, Cavalier’s latest offering, much like its ancestor, the Maverick showcases an absolutely retro-hipster attitude by ditching the boring plastic for knit fabric, wood, and leather.
The Air is essentially a combination of three things. A smart-speaker, a clock, and a wireless charger. Its unique shape allows it to be all three, as the speaker grille also contains a concealed LED matrix that tells you the time, and the surface above the Air serves as a Qi-compatible wireless charger for your phone. The Air comes enabled with Alexa, so you can talk to it, commanding it to play songs, modulate the volume, and much more. Packed with a very capable 20W speaker system on the inside, the Air just goes to show how obsessed the guys at Cavalier are with their hi-fidelity audio. The wireless charger just builds on the functionality of what I’d say is already a pretty kickass smart-speaker… and if that isn’t enough to convince you, the Air comes with two USB ports at the back to charge more of your gadgets while you groove to music from the 80s, because that’s how the hipster Cavalier do…
Designer: Cavalier Audio
Designed by IKEA, and Powered by Sonos, you’re looking at the Symfonisk, a range of offerings by the two collaborating companies. Designed as a table-lamp-speaker and a bookshelf-speaker, the Symfonisk aim at merging home-decor with smart-technology, and powerful audio to create products that simply enrich houses. The table-lamp comes with a lamp and lampshade at the top and a speaker at the bottom, while the bookshelf speaker is designed to occupy the spatial footprint of an encyclopedia (something that’s sorely missed from today’s bookshelves).
Designed in signature IKEA fashion, the lamp and speaker sport a home-friendly design, and can be customized. The lamp comes with a detachable lampshade and the ability to put a bulb of your choice in it, while the bookshelf speaker can be placed horizontally, vertically, or even be hacked to be used as a wall-mounted shelf! Both products use a combination of plastic and fabric, and IKEA’s designed them to be easy to pull apart and clean (IKEA even experimented with chucking parts in the dishwasher!)
As far as the audio hardware is concerned, Sonos told The Verge that both products have two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. Given their size and their relatively starting-range price, the speakers won’t quite match up to the standard set by Sonos’ other products, but the idea was to partner with IKEA to build truly uplifting home-decor, which I can’t help but agree with! The lamp and speaker are both controlled by Sonos’ mobile app (and they support Apple AirPlay 2 too), with support for IKEA’s own smart-home app coming soon.
Designers: IKEA & Sonos
We have smart-home technology coming at us from all angles now, as its popularity and presence is ever increasing. However, this product still manages to stand out from the sea of competitors, as it takes a rather retro approach to smart-design.
The smart-screen speaker references the form of the original portable televisions; the blocky, angular form with the prominent control dials and two-tone finish was a familiar sight in homes of the 1970s, and now it has been brought into the modern-day! Sitting in place of the television screen is an LCD display that shows all the information that you could need!
The blocky form has been treated to some carefully considered finishes that have been implemented to break up angular form; fabric covers the majority of the device, only to be broken by the façade which has been finished in a matte plastic. Flashes of color can be found on the dial and logo, which ties the whole product beautifully together.
Designer: Wanheng Chen of Sichuan Konka Smart Technology