We’ve scoured the globe, from start-up labs in San Francisco to future-seeking sites in China, to find the best new design-minded technology. Think stylii, speakers and smartphones, each idea more innovative than the last. Go, go inspecting gadgets...
Balance of being, by Panasonic Design
In September, Panasonic revealed a new research-driven collection at Berlin’s IFA show: the conceptual six-piece technology collection ‘Balance of being’ was realised with a helping hand from Benjamin Hubert’s Layer studio. The set enters the discourse around our daily relationship with technology, assessing how sophisticated product design can create more meaningful experiences and improve our physical and mental wellbeing. For example, LIFT, a smart food-growing appliance, is designed to optimise food to its most nutritional and healthy state, while TONE examines our complexion and nurtures our skin through steam and LEDs.
Writer: Luke Halls
The Tempo Radio, by Linley and Ruark
Design disciplines crossover in a new collaboration between audio brand Ruark and bespoke furniture designer Linley. The result is the Tempo Bluetooth radio, a 20th century-inspired visual and auditory compliment to the home. With speakers becoming ever more boastful in their myriad technological capabilities, Tempo is a sigh of relief. DAB/DAB+ and FM radio access is the focal point here, yet additional functions include a programmable dual alarm clock (settings range from once to daily, weekday and weekend) and an auxiliary input and headphone output. Made from solid sycamore and a goatskin-clad front, Tempo elegantly provides all the audio tech essentials.
Writer: Luke Halls
Luzli Roller MK02 headphone set
Swiss-British bespoke headphone designer Luzli looks to premium Swiss timepieces for its design inspiration, referencing their durability and quality. Since winning a 2018 Red Dot Design Award for its inaugural Roller MK01 headphone set, Luzli has now released Roller MK02. Hand-constructed from precision-matched aluminium and stainless steel, the set can be rolled into a tidy fist-sized bundle courtesy of its flexible headband. Custom-designed 40mm drivers have been individually paired, accompanied by optimally tuned baffles, acoustic chambers, bass ports and removable foam earpads for the ultimate on-the-go listening experience. They say good things come in small packages, and this portable powerhouse is a case in point.
Writer: Luke Halls
The Technogym Bike is a newly updated design that includes the on-demand digital platform, Technogym Live. Providing members with the best fitness classes at home, at work, the gym and even in hotels, the bike is designed to accommodate the needs of the rider by offering a sensation of road cycling that includes precise data tracking. The bike allows users to join live streaming classes of their favourite gym trainers in accordance to music, duration and language from the extensive library of the screening device. Riders can choose different training objectives and levels to enjoy a fully immersive experience. Partnering with leading gyms such as Virgin Active and 1Rebel, the distinct nature of the Technogym Live feature brings popular classes to a more convenient location for the user.
Writer: Emi Eleode
Terrazzo Collection, by Native Union
The tech accessories market is growing evermore tangled, but every now and then, something arrives that breaks loose. LA’s Native Union has done it again, this time with a range for iPhone taking its cue from terrazzo. The Terrazzo Collection offers new spins on the accessory expert’s Clic iPhone case and Dock Wireless Charger. The former offers stylishly slim and lightweight protection, whilst the latter provides optimised wireless recharging. Both are now available in a carefully crafted, one-of-a-kind mineral pattern made from Jesmonite, in black or rose finishes.
Writer: Luke Halls
Beoplay E8 2.0 wireless earphone set
For Bang & Olufsen, 2018 was especially jam-packed. Releases included sculptural household systems and portable powerhouses. The momentum continues with the audio afficionado’s first launch of the year, the newly updated Beoplay E8 2.0 wireless earphone set. For the first time, the portable buds now offer fully-fledged, on-the-go wireless independence. An updated charging case conveniently replenishes via wireless charging pads (in addition to a USB-C port), with three full charges at 16 hours a time now at users’ disposal. Ever aesthetically-conscious, earphones are now housed in a premium leather case, sheltered by interior inlays of brushed aluminium. Available 14 February.
Writer: Luke Halls
Those who suffer from their coffee or tea going cold too quickly may fret no longer, as Ember has designed a new temperature-maintaining ceramic mug. Desired drinking temperature between 120 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit is monitored by a phase-change cooling system and an intelligent network of sensors, and maintained for up to two hours. A removable charging coaster keeps power levels topped up, and a simple LED light keeps you informed of when your drink is just right. Temperature is adjusted as you drink via The Ember App for handheld smart devices, and presets can be saved for future consumption.
Writer: Luke Halls
From pocket-sized portables to haute household sculptures, Bang and Olufsen has been going from strength to strength with its latest wave of wireless speakers. Now, the Danish designer has reimagined the home speaker once more with its latest offering, Beosound Edge – designed to be fixed to the wall, or, alternatively, the floor. Created in collaboration with Michael Anastassiades, the circular aluminium device contains B&O’s powerful new Active Bass Port technology, spectacularly rolling out lower frequencies across the speaker’s volume spectrum. Voice controllable, refined and authoritative in quality, Beosound Edge is proof of B&O’s continued dedication to pushing domestic audio design.
Writer: Luke Halls
Wireless charging, by Ziistle
As of late, wireless phone charging has become an ever-welcome solution for our busy lifestyles. However, after much use, we’ve realised that the one solitary charging position isn’t the most useful. Luckily for us, Ziistle is jumping on the case, offering new angles with its Qi wireless charging kit. The minimalist tablet can easily be folded into three configurations, providing access to the most user-friendly and ergonomic positions for landscape and portrait phone use. Made from PU leather and superfiber, and tastefully finished in red, gray and dark gray finishes, the pocket-sized kit sacrifices neither charge time nor convenience.
Writer: Luke Halls
Andiamo speaker, by Tivoli Audio
Speakers are becoming smarter, smaller, and all-round better in quality. Competition is high. But giving bigger brands a run for their money is Tivoli Audio, which has launched its new collection of Bluetooth-enabled models, Tivoli Go. Included in the collection is the Andiamo (pictured) a compact speaker engineered for portability, for the on-the-move audiophile. Encased in a durable black or silver aluminium housing, and made mobile with the aid of a premium Italian leather carry strap, the speaker provides up to 20 hours of playback time in a particularly tidy package. Happy listening. Available from WallpaperSTORE*
Writer: Luke Halls
Virtual reality has been a divisive topic in the tech world for some time, with many seeing the idea of putting on goggles and disappearing into another world as isolationist in nature. Facebook has now added its voice to the conversation with the Oculus Go, its first VR headset, geared towards exploring the many social possibilities the virtual world can provide. Good-to-go straight out of the box, the headset features a range of applications; ‘Oculus Rooms’ is a virtual space where friends can kick back with a game of cards or watch a film, whereas upcoming releases are pinned to enable users to attend live concerts and sporting events together. The future is digital – but certainly doesn’t have to be experienced alone.
Writer: Luke Halls
New research from Nokia has found that lack of sleep is linked to an increased likelihood of being overweight, being less active and being more likely to have hypertension. Never fear: the hardware stalwart has made its first foray into sleep tech (yes, that’s a thing now). Nokia is becoming quite the leader in the connected health revolution, having already launched smart thermometers, weighing scales and other such gadget geekery. The Wi-Fi enabled sleep sensor, which you place under your mattress, tracks your sleep cycles, heart rate and can even detect snoring, providing you with detailed insights into sleep patterns, all while you’re dreaming away.
Writer: Elly Parsons
Polaroid ‘96 Cam’, by Polaroid Originals
Chokers, Doc Martins, accent braids and now the Polaroid 96 Cam. Nineties treasures have made a serious comeback. Camera fans will rejoice the world-over at this kitsch (but kind-of-totally-awesome) re-make of a classic. The 96 Cam, available from 28 March, and produced by Polaroid Originals – a new brand from Polaroid dedicated to reinventing analogue instant photography – is a special, 2000-tight limited edition run of refurbished originals. Excitingly, the launch of this colourful, attention-grabbing camera means Polaroid has re-created the now defunct film used by the original 600-format camera, keeping the legacy of these vintage reels alive. This means thousands of Polaroid cameras waiting patiently in attics, store rooms and under beds can be reactivated at any time to capture meaningful moments once again. All it takes is a dusting off and a pack of fresh Polaroid Originals film. Snap happy.
FSW TV stand, by Zeigeist Inc.
In the last ten years, the way we access television and film technologically shifted. Instead of physical DVDs, which require a dedicated player, we rely upon digital downloads and streaming services – which take up little-to-no space on our TV cabinets. Tokyo’s Zeitgeist Inc. has taken note of this modern approach to media digestion with a minimal, mid-century-inspired TV stand, the FSW (Floor Stand Wood). The simple, two-piece plywood stand features a small table, with just enough space for a remote control or a plant (who needs much else these days?) and a slit for hassle-free cable management. The stand also accommodates televisions between 34 and 60 inches in width, featuring a universal mount bracket that is supports TVs from major manufacturers. Happy streaming.
Writer: Luke Halls
The return of reel-to-reel tape
Before Philips introduced its Compact Cassette in 1963 and effectively undermined analogue tape’s audiophile credentials, the reel-to-reel tape player was the cognoscenti’s choice for unparalleled sound quality. At the moment, enthusiasts lovingly maintain vintage players and fork out £200-£500 for copies of albums on quarter-inch tape. But audio equipment makers are working on a wider reel-to-reel revival: a recently leaked image of a new reel-to-reel prototype from Swiss brand ReVox, possibly playback-only, had audiophiles all of a quiver, while Dutch firm Metaxas has also shown images of a mouthwatering concept. Düsseldorf-based manufacturer Ballfinger is ahead of the curve with its new Tonbandmaschine M063 (pictured), beating more established brands to the post with sales due to start in May.
As originally featured in the April 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*229). Photography: Hudson Hayden. Writer: Ken Kessler
Technology is a driving force for change
Creative agency R/GA’s expertise in weaving creativity with technological innovation is well established, with projects for Samsung, Google and Airbnb under its belt. Now, R/GA founder Bob Greenberg has been invited by the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York to curate a dedicated exhibition on the topic. He has put together an array of pieces designed by seminal gures such as Dieter Rams and Mario Bellini. Iconic items, among them the Motorola brick phone and Sony Walkman (both pictured above), are also represented. The show acknowledges technology as a driving force for change. ‘If designers don’t take into account how people live and behave, the spaces they design lack a level of functionality and lose relevance,’ says Greenberg. Pictured on desk, tape dispenser, £35; pocket diary, £25, both from Present & Correct. ‘Dialog 3’ pen, £275, by Lamy
BeoVision Eclipse Wood
Bang & Olufsen has unveiled its latest TV model, the BeoVision Eclipse Wood. The new addition, designed by Torsten Valeur of David Lewis Designers, comprises a new oak cover which sits at a juxtaposition to the slender display and sleek aluminium elements. The handmade wooden oak speaker panel adds warmth, decadence and a sense of cinematic statement to the living room. The use of oak holds significance for the Danish design stalwart, having been an integral part of its products since the company’s inception in 1925.
The Barisieur, by Joshua Renouf
Wake up and smell the coffee with ‘The Barisieur’ – a filter machine-cum-alarm clock. This invigorating work of genius combines contemporary caffeinated ritual with the nostalgia of a vinyl record. Designed with digital detox in mind, a retro display both sets the alarm and starts the coffee on its automated journey from bean to cup. The design language flips between simplicity and mystified alchemy; watch how the water transports from one vessel to other due to steam pressure, while listening to your wake-up soundtrack. Form filters function: the scientific borosilicate glassware sits on a charming walnut tray, which in turn hovers on a mid-century styled black base. Available from WallpaperSTORE*
The Portable Aroma Diffuser, by Muji
Global nomads are hunting for at-home luxuries wherever they are. Jumping on the trend for innovative travel technology, the Portable Aroma Diffuser is a mini-version of the beloved MUJI Aroma Diffuser, for scent installation on the go. Plug into your laptop or devise via USB, placing a few drops onto the replaceable filter inside the diffuser – and that’s it. Fully charged, it lasts for two hours and comes with a handy travel case, rendered in MUJI’s minimal Japanese aesthetic.
Stylus, by Scriba
Stylii come and go, and while most of us haven’t been bitten by the pen computing bug (despite the valiant efforts of tech giants like Samsung, Apple and Microsoft), there’s still a lot to be said for the ability to write and draw on a screen. New start-up Scriba clearly thinks so. For a start, their new device looks nothing like an actual pen. Instead, it’s an ergonomic concoction that supports tactile feedback to reinforce the sense of dragging a point across a page, with a customisable squeeze function that lets it double up as a controller for presentations and more. We tracked the device down soon after the launch and what followed was a successful launch via Kickstarter. This emphasis on art and design gives the Scriba a suitable edge and we’re happy to report that the Scriba performs extremely well, fitting into the hand and giving a more consistent and detailed line than many off the shelf offerings.
‘The Black Light’ jacket, by Vollebak
Vollebak co-founder Steve Tidball, who prides himself on being both asthete and athlete, thinks high vis sports gear design has always been hampered by compromise. ‘It’s either heavy, crinkly, noisy, sweaty or ugly,’ he says. ‘But sport at night is fun and you shouldn’t be punished for being safe, so we set out to rethink high vis gear from scratch.’ Incorporating the same matte black hues as a stealth bomber, The Black Light layering system from Vollebak is about as advanced as material technology gets. To make the wearer highly visible at night, the t-shirt, baselayer, midlayer and jacket design is based on the science of how we see in the dark, with a series of matt black reflective dots becoming instantly visible as soon as light hits them.
Just eight dots of light placed at key points on the body are all the information our eyes and brain need to understand that we’re actually looking at a person, even in pitch black conditions. Our brains are so good at it, that in a quarter of a second we can predict what they’re doing, where they’re going and how fast. Rather than relying on silver reflective tape or stripes for night-time visibility, the Black Light system’s protection lies in these reflective matt black dots made of thousands of microscopic black glass spheres.
Copenhagen speaker, by Vifa Home
Like so many others, Vifa has jumped on the (continually speeding) connected-home train. Promising ‘a whole new way of connecting loudspeakers that allows you to distribute music to different areas of your home’, Vifa have created a simplified connection system that will appeal to technophiles and luddites alike. On your Vifa loudspeaker, be it the all new Copenhagen (pictured) or Stockholm in the 2.0 versions, you’ll find a ‘Vifa LINK’ button that helps you interconnect your loudspeakers with one click. Through these new connective features, Vifa’s timeless Nordic design and authentic sound quality remains.
‘Drop’ wireless charger, by Native Union
Accessories titan Native Union has launched a new charger, to add to its ever expanding range of beautifully designed tech objet. Available from March 2018, the ‘Drop’ charger provides fast and secure charging for the latest iPhones 8, and Qi enabled devices. At just a few mm thick, it sits coaster-like on your surface, providing streamlined, unobtrusive charging. Native Union’s in-house design team (headed up by John Brunner and Igor Duc) have become known for their focus on three main pillars: enhanced user experience, innovation and a dedication to the highest quality materials. Made from hard-wearing home textile and chic, aircraft grade aluminium, ‘Drop’ ticks off all three.
‘Ground’ wireless charging island, by Mobileisland
Providing a solution to desktop tech clutter, South Korean startup Mobileisland has created a modular wireless charger that comes with a range of building block-like electronic accessories. Initially created as a graduate project, a base tray (aptly rendered in millennial pink, appealing to Mobileisland’s target audience) comprises a series of wireless chargers, collectively named ‘Ground’, and a range of electric accessories, called ‘Building’. Speaker, desk lamps and docks are formed from the same design vernacular, creating a co-ordinated landscape of gadgets for your workspace.
Huaweii Mate 10, by Porsche Design
Chinese smartphone brand Huaweii continues its quiet revolution, challenging the big brands with technology that is increasingly sleek and self-assured. The company is making much of the Mate10’s AI-based processes - designed to learn the way you use the phone and respond accordingly with updates and notifications - but we’re more taken with the forms and details of the new Porsche Design edition. The spec includes a Leica-developed 12-megapixel camera and an impressive 256GB of onboard space, while the custom black leather case adds a final premium spin to this smart black metal and glass device.
Though late to the home helper scene, the Apple HomePod is a far superior speaker to the rest. Among its rivals, only the Sonos One really stands any comparison. HomePod is bristling with acoustic armaments powered by its A8 chip, including seven beam-forming tweeters (unusually, placed at the bottom of the speaker and each with their own amplifier) and a high-excursion woofer (weirdly, in a good way, set at the top of the speaker). It also adjusts the way it plays music, depending on where you place it in your room, and works out how to get the best from your selection on a track-by-track basis – adjusting bass output, for instance, if it fears a fluffiness or lack of focus. Of course, it looks great too – an elegant blob of wire mesh; while Siri, when activated, is a hypnotic swirl of colour on top of the speaker.
Closca’s new ‘wearable’ bottle will free your hands, save space in your backpack and protect it from accidental leaks. Just pull out the magnetic stretchy silicone ‘flap-strap’ and wrap it around your bike, stroller or bag. Detailed, and made with high quality materials Closca’s bottle also has a removable base that allows you to add ice or attach optional accessories, to brew tea or coffee, and make fruit infusions. It even comes with its own app that tells you where you can get the nearest refill. Its a product that will redefine the way you drink on the go.
Writer: Sotirios Varsamis