If you’ve ever had a gadget break less than a year after you bought it, congratulations — you’ve experienced one of the worst things about modern electronics.
For years, companies have created products designed to conk out — it’s called “planned obsolescence”– and it’s become a vital way to keep customers coming back. It’s how your grandparents have been using the same television since the 80s even as your Galaxy S II is already on its last legs.
Swedish design firm People People, however, wants to bring back those days of timeless electronics. Its newly-Kickstarted Transparent Speaker is built from the ground up to be not only modular, but completely user repairable — meaning that owners won’t have to replace the whole thing if a single component breaks.
“Our ambition is to make it a future classic. We don’t want to make something that’s thrown away when it becomes outdated in a few years,” People People co-founder Per Brickstad told me.
While the idea of a repairable, modular speaker has obviously attracted the attention of hackers and tinkerers, it’s also interested pop superstar will.i.am, who featured the speaker in a recent video right before blowing it up. That’s the kind of promotion you oftentimes can’t even pay for.
Here’s the thing, though: People People has no idea how its speaker got in the video. “It’s strange, and it’s funny, and it’s nice, but we had nothing to do with it,” Brickstad said.
People People may never find out which of the Transparent Speaker’s features caught will.i.am’s eye, but if he’s like most people, chances are he’s a big fan of its design. The Transparent Speaker is, after all, a simple yet highly attractive device. “People just see it and love it,” Brickstad said.
But it also sounds fantastic, a reality that became clear when Brickstad used it to blast a particularly bass-heavy version of R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”
So lets recap: Not only does the Transparent Speaker have a beautiful design and sound great, it’s also built to last more or less forever. And in consumer electronics, it’s rare to find a value proposition quite like that.