Cone: More than a Speaker #musicmonday


Don’t insult Cone by grouping it in with the average speaker. Through machine learning, Cone from Aether gets to know you and helps to eliminate that ever-nagging question: What should I listen to? via wired.

Of course, one of the ideas behind Cone is that, when we’re at home, we don’t always have our phones in our hands. And yet, Lamb and company didn’t want to risk making Cone needlessly complex; one of the motivating beliefs behind Aether is that truly smart devices need simple, powerful controls specific to those devices themselves.

The secret sauce that lets Aether achieve that simplicity is machine learning. Each time you spin its dial, Cone learns something about you. By taking note of what you skip past and what you listen to, it slowly puts together a profile of your music listening habits. It’ll take note of what you turn up to rock out to–and what time of day you do it. With a built-in accelerometer, it knows when you pick the thing up and take it to another room, and it will pay attention to what you listen to there (and how it’s different what you listened to in the first room.)

If you’re not going to bedeck every gizmo with a touchscreen or off-load its controls to a dedicated application, you need to “pick up the slack with services and sensibility,” explains Lamb, who formerly served as a product designer at companies like Nokia and Skype. Another way of putting it is that you have to make the few controls you do have smarter. With Cone, that spin that tells it to move to the next track isn’t always the same static command. Instead, it changes based on what day you’re listening and what time. In other words, Cone’s sensitivity to context is what lets it get away with being so simple.

Making Choices for You
The even bigger–and bolder–idea behind Cone is that we don’t always know what we want to listen to in the first place. It’s an insight that was born out of months of research, with Aether’s early employees examining their own music listening habits and those of a dozen families with various levels of tech and music literacy. The problem, in short: Services like Spotify give us a staggering library of songs but offer relatively primitive tools for enjoying them. “Streaming music is still finding its place in the world,” Lamb says. “It’s accessible. But it’s not really accessible.”


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