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A Tiny Travel Fan To Help You Sleep

This portable sound machine is built like an instrument with a true, analog heart.

With its spinning body, it looks a bit like an old-school thermostat. In reality, it’s the Snooz, a portable white noise machine, powered by the sound of a real fan rather than a looping MP3 of static playing out of a speaker.

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“Some things just need that analog character,” says designer Scot Herbts, “like listening to Brubeck on vinyl. Technology can’t replicate that!”

The Snooz’s core fan technology was engineered over two years by researchers from the University of Illinois. It uses a super-low-wattage fan–sipping on the power of an ultra efficient LED bulb–to reverberate wind sounds through a small chamber, much like a guitar’s body amplifies the sounds of its strings. “It’s funny, the range of sound is very abstract we’ve tried to find the perfect metaphor to define the tone (airplane vs rain, light clouds vs heavy clouds, light breeze vs mistral),” Herbst explains. “In the end we developed some abstract iconography to represent the sound range.”

Whereas researchers developed the fan, it was up to Herbst’s studio to turn 3-D printed prototypes into a sellable product. They iterated the core ring interaction, which with a twist of the top, opens the air intake to pump the volume, and with the twist of the body, changes the tone. It’s an interaction reminiscent of the dials of a vintage stereo system. But from a geek-out industrial design perspective, there’s a very essential 1:1 relationship with those twists and the sound. Because as you rotate the body, it actually changes the chamber’s shape, which alters the reverberation exactly as if you’re playing a wind-based musical instrument.

“You just can’t truly replicate the tone they are achieving with a speaker,” Herbst insists. “Hence the science.”

The Snooz is available on Kickstarter for a $59 preorder now.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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