Plair tackles a familiar problem: You've got a video clip on your phone that you're dying to show to a group of friends, but all you have is a 4-inch screen. To save everybody's necks, Plair enlisted NewDealDesign (NDD) to craft a portable gadget that can beam media from a smartphone to any TV.
The challenge was that TVs were designed to receive signals from a hardwired set-top box or a special HD antenna. On the transmission end, Plair's Android or iOS smartphone app lets users select videos or photos to send via Wi-Fi. On the TV end, a dongle plugs into the HDMI port on the back of the set. "We wanted to get rid of the remote control, the cables, and the box," Plair CEO Saad Hussain says. During the initial design phase, the Plair's Wi-Fi receptor lacked the strength to pull in the transmitted content. So the team beefed up the receiver with a feature akin to a TV antenna: a tether twisted into a Moebius strip that formed a carabiner-style hook for portability. Free from the need to create a standard upright box for a countertop, NDD doodled on an iPad, settling on a petite, golf-club shape for the receiver. Paper models and then foam and plastic prototypes proved that a simple magnet could affix the gadget to a TV. But the too-long tether was a problem. So Plair adopted a more powerful radio receiver that could both eliminate the unwieldy hook and trim production costs. Et voila: Amid a sea of rectangles, the Plair is a unique asymmetrical teardrop. ($99, plair.com)
1. NewDealDesign's initial sketches were meant for a USB connection.
2. Plair's first iteration was nearly ready for market.
3. The second version of the Plair kept the curved shape, but no longer needed the USB hook.
4. The final Plair's black cap pops off to reveal the HDMI connector, which plugs directly into a TV set.
[Photo by Kent Larsson]
A version of this article appeared in the April 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.