These smart-home devices are disguised to look like balancing Zen Stones!

If the future of the smart home is all-around integration, what’s a better example than products that absolutely integrate themselves into your domestic surroundings? The Wepoom is a series of home-cameras and a projector that pull inspiration from zen stones, creating what is best described as an IoT Japanese rock garden in your home. The Wepoom is characterized by multiple pebble-shaped devices that nest one above the other on a wireless charging mat to periodically recharge their batteries. When they’re fully charged, the camera units can be strategically placed at various points in the house, while the projector unit itself could be used to have video chats with people in different rooms or to see who’s at the door. Conversely, Wepoom’s charging mat can even be used to juice your smartphone when its own devices aren’t getting re-energized.

The Wepoom explores an interesting design direction by making gadgets look more unassuming and allowing them to blend into home decor as interesting products (quite like this kinetic-sculpture WiFi router). Wepoom’s design explores an aspect of cultural relevance too, bridging the gap between tech and tradition in an unusually pleasing way. The individual pebble-cameras don’t just do their jobs, but also have an interactive element that doesn’t seem forced. I’d argue that balancing the zen-stones on top of one another (which get fixed in place magnetically so they don’t accidentally topple over) would be a sort of highlight that people would look forward to and enjoy, unlike the absolute chore it is to usually charge devices.

I imagine the only logical next step would be to design a silicone housing for the Nest Home Mini that resembles a Feng Shui Lucky Cat!

Designer: Seongmin Kang

Microsoft’s new ‘Surface Headphones 2’ are designed for music as well as Skype/Zoom meetings

You have to admit that Microsoft under Satya Nadella’s CEO-ship has really gained a whole lot of perspective. They aren’t just the OS company anymore. Nadella’s vision for Microsoft was to always make it as ubiquitous as the air you breathe, which is why we now have elements like Microsoft Azure, OneDrive, Outlook, Skype, Windows, Teams, LinkedIn, embedded deep into everything we do. Wherever you go, if there’s an enterprise involved, Microsoft has a solution somewhere allowing it to function seamlessly… and that ability to cross the T’s and dot the I’s is what makes Microsoft’s products great. In fact, they’ve got a thriving hardware setup too, and the reason why Microsoft’s hardware works so great (unlike its failed acquisition of Nokia under Steve Ballmer), is its ability to be a holistic software powerhouse. Take for instance Microsoft’s Surface Headphones. In a market flooded with headphones (and pretty competitively priced ones too), Microsoft’s Surface Headphones have a crystal clear vision of their purpose.

Unlike every other pair of wireless headphones out there, the Surface Headphones 2 aren’t just built for music… they’re built for work too. Given that we’re in an era dominated by Zoom and Skype meetings, the Surface Headphones 2 also focus on the ‘conference’ aspect with the same emphasis as the music aspect. They come with a comfortable design that allows them to be worn for hours (because meetings can go into overtime), have a day-long battery life, pack a whopping 13 levels of active noise cancellation in, so you can drown out sounds like the living-room TV or your kid screaming in the hallway… and perhaps the most mindful feature yet, a dedicated microphone muting button that allows you to quickly alternate between talking to your colleagues and yelling at your kids to keep the noise down.

Obviously Microsoft didn’t know a pandemic would upend businesses, forcing everyone to work from home (I refuse to entertain the conspiracy theory that Bill Gates was in on the COVID thing all along)… but the Surface Headphones 2 come at a perfect time, allowing people to conference more effectively from their home-offices. The headphones boast of the same clean design from last year, and feature 40mm Free Edge drivers to produce stunningly immersive sound that’s perfect for listening to music. The headphones come with dedicated ring-dials on the outside that allow you to control the volume and the noise-cancelation, so you can either completely drown external sound out, or blend them in, allowing yourself to be immersed in audio yet aware of your surroundings. Like all smart headphones, you can tap, hold, and swipe on the Surface Headphones too, performing activities like controlling playback, answering calls, or summoning the voice assistant… and if you’ve got an active Microsoft 365 subscription, you can even dictate text to the Headphones hand have your laptop type it out in Word, Outlook, or any of Microsoft’s other surfaces… Pretty clever, eh?

Designer: Microsoft

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