By Jason Epstein
Former Nokia and Skype product designer, Duncan Lamb, has launched fledgling San Francisco startup Aether with the goal of integrating hardware and software to deliver a simple music listening experience. Branded as a ‘thinking player’, Cone is a new audio device that learns your likes and dislikes to a scary degree (though the company promises never to use data to serve anyone else but the customer’s benefit). It then plays back audio from streaming music services, Internet radio stations and podcasts based on its knowledge of your tastes.
The lack of a screen can be seen either as a big plus (simplification to the nth degree) or a big drawback (as users tend to be comforted by visual controls). Instead, Cone has voice recognition and a simple click wheel control scheme: Turn and it’ll automatically play what you enjoy; tap the center and it’ll pause; press the center button, then tell Cone what genre, artists or song you want to hear and it’ll obey; turn the dial again and it’ll play something random.
Cone will be available in two color schemes. The black and copper version looks like a conical Duracell battery, while the classic white and gray looks like it was torn straight from the Apple assembly line. Its minimalistic front-side center button and dial system design is rounded out with top-mounted + and – volume buttons, and a rear-mounted on/off switch and 3.5 mm headphone jack.