As digital music continues to replace records, CDs, and cassettes, music players are shrinking. Oversized boom boxes sprouting tangles of wires are making way for levitating musical orbs; copper cones that learn your musical taste; and $1,000 portable porcelain speakers.
The latest in this tiny, beautiful speaker trend is the wireless Sugr Cube, a no-nonsense wooden sound box that looks more like a child’s playing block than anything high-tech designed by Sean Song, ex-Microsoft engineer and founder of Sugr Technologies. Housed in wood with a basic speaker grill facade, the portable Sugr Cube takes up little space, and can perch on a desk or a nightstand.
Instead of buttons, Sugr Cube uses gestures and touch to control music playback, updating the music player for a new generation of touch-screen addicts. Tap the top of the cube to play or pause a song; tilt it gently to the right to skip to the next track; roll it onto its side to snooze the alarm clock. With its mobile app, your phone can act as a remote control, able to connect to iTunes, Pandora, BBC radio, 8Tracks, and Douban FM to stream over Wi-Fi. The engineers are also working to add services like Spotify, Google Play, and SoundCloud.
But maybe Sugr Cube’s most interesting feature isn’t its gesture-based UI, but its social features: two friends can listen to the same music at the same time, but at different locations anywhere in the world. Overall though, Song’s main objective appears to be simplicity.
“This technology was inspired by my second son, Leo,” Song tells Co.Design in an email. “When he was born, I played music to him every day. Unfortunately the wireless music experience was awful using smartphones: often it’s interrupted by SMS, push messages, and phone calls.” Song decided to build a wireless music player independent from smartphones. “When I had a prototype, I decided to make it a hardware app, which looks like an app and performs as an app, too.”
It’s not the first gesture-based speaker on the market–Unmonday’s hexagonal speaker is tilted and rotated to control playback. But Sugr Cube is decidedly more affordable, currently available for $149 on Kickstarter, as opposed to Unmonday’s $749 price tag.