March 5, 2014 at 5:26 pm

The Aether Cone Speaker Is a Harbinger of Sometimes-Screenless Apps

aether cone

We’ve been thinking a lot about how speakers are evolving from things that simply turn electricity into sound into smart, networked objects, sometimes with interfaces.

This week saw the release of another interesting next-level speaker, the Aether Cone. It’s rechargeable and wireless, but it really shines in the “Internet of Things” sense of having screenless controls that can talk to music services in the cloud to affect what gets played in your house. And it doesn’t simply skip to the next song.

Set for a summer 2014 release, the Aether Cone ($400, iOS, OS X) lets you press the center of the speaker and request music by name. If ever you don’t like what’s playing, you turn the dial on the speaker — basically the whole circular grille — and something different will play. What, exactly? It’s a bit mysterious at this point, but the programming will draw on its own mix of “streaming music services, internet radio stations, and podcasts,” or you can stream other stuff via AirPlay.

Given that this is a portable speaker, it’ll sometimes be easier and more convenient to use those screenless controls than to fish around for your smartphone, open the music player app or switch back to it, and use the on-screen controls. After all, we’re trying to live our lives out there.

In this case, the speaker is the interface — or, rather, an interface. You’d still want to be able to control the music with your phone, or your computer sometimes too  – whatever’s most convenient. As more objects appear that let us use apps without a screen, listening to the perfect thing for any moment should get easier and, sometimes, less attention-diverting (see also: these headphones).

Here are some specs, courtesy of Aether:

Height: 6.3 in
Width: 6.3 in
Length: 6 in
Weight: 2.9 lbs

Technical Details

Built-in rechargeable Lithium ion battery

8 hours of continuous playback

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band (2.4 and 5GHz)

3” woofer plus dual tweeter design for natural stereo envelopment

Fully digital I2S 2.1 channel 20w audio amplifier

Required for Setup

Any device running iOS 7+ or Mac OSX 10.9+ “Mavericks”

(Image via Aether)