The Small Transparent (and Recyclable) Speaker

This transparent speaker has built-in sensors that detect when parts need to be replaced, repaired or updated, and notifies users via their smartphones.

The Small Transparent Speaker was designed and launched on Kickstarter by Stockholm studio People People. It is intended as a reaction against excessive consumer waste, particularly electronic waste.

Very interesting. I’m optimistic for this product’s success.

It ticks a lot of my boxes. Recycling is a two-way street – they could get the materials all right, but the consumer has to take action, and I think they’ve made the right decision here:

Broken products that can’t be repaired at home would be sent back to the manufacturers to be looked at more closely. To allow this, they would be encased in packaging that can be refolded to expose the prepaid return shipping label.

Recyclers also get discounts on their next purchase.

Connectivity seems great and a competitive advantage unto itself:

Wifi and Bluetooth enabled, the speaker can connect to phones, tablets, or computers to allow users to wirelessly stream audio.

The device also supports Apple AirPlay and Google Cast. The wireless connectivity also means the product’s software can be remotely updated by the studio.

Additionally, speakers tend to have fewer components compared to other types of consumer electronics, making it inherently less complicated to dismantle and ship back parts. I think they picked the right kind of product to manufacture as an attempt on this “closed loop” business model, as they call it on their Kickstarter.

Also, it just looks well done. Perhaps it’s a little garish for my liking – I can’t help but compare it to an aquarium – but it’s acceptable and inconspicuous for what it is.

“Even though it might seem unusual and counterintuitive to talk about scenarios of product failure now when the product is brand new, we believe that is exactly what we need to do,” said People People.

Definitely unconventional. But the thought of The Small Transparent Speaker having low quality hardware never entered my mind. At the rate we replace our electronics, I think consumers will understand what People People are trying to do – or at least the consumers they’re going for...

This will be retailing at $310, which isn’t cheap for any audio product targeted at non-audiophiles, but it’s competitive within the premium Bose/Harmon Kardon/Soundfreaq/etc. segment I think they’re aiming at.