Smart speakers are becoming a common sight in homes these days, even those that have yet to wander into the smart home category. They come in all shapes and sizes, but most of the designs have one thing in common. Given the design of drivers, they can only project sound in one direction, usually forward. You can have a 360-degree speaker, but that requires having more complicated hardware or a cylindrical design that has to be placed somewhere in the middle of the room to make sure the sound reaches you where you are. This concept design, however, offers a simpler but more interesting solution, taking a cue from one of Mother Nature’s more curious creations. This circular speaker turns to make sure that sound is sent in your direction, following you all the time just like a sunflower follows the sun.
Designer: Joon-Yeol Bae
In general, sound travels in the direction an emitter, such as a speaker, is facing. It can bounce off objects or spread a bit in a cone, but on its own, it will never change its forward direction. Omni-directional speakers solve this by having drivers that face multiple directions to cover all possible directions. While effective and a common practice these days, it also means multiplying the number of components used, raising the build cost. In some cases, it also requires that the speaker be placed in an open and unobstructed area of the room, which limits your interior design options.
Solros, named after “sunflower” in Swedish, is a concept that takes an unconventional approach. Employing the same technologies used by self-driving cars and robot vacuums, it can tell where you are and rotate its disc-shaped head to always face in your direction. It can even detect how near or far you are from the speaker and adjust its volume to compensate for the distance. This has the effect of making the sound feel like it’s always following you, wherever you go inside a space.
The speaker is also designed to blend into the background if you need it or become the center of attraction if you want it. Its minimalist design, which can be made available in beige, black, red, and green colors, makes it a perfect fit for almost any interior. Its graceful movements also minimize distractions while, at the same time, becoming a point of curiosity for visitors. Needless to say, it’s going to be a conversation starter, especially when the music starts to play.
As interesting as this design might be, it does raise the question of how effective it will be when there is more than one person in the room. LIDAR alone won’t be able to give priority to certain individuals, say the homeowner, and the speaker might end up getting confused and frozen in place instead of making sure its sound is sent in the right direction. Solros definitely makes the composition of a speaker a bit simpler, but the logic necessary to avoid a deadlock makes it a bit more complicated than a more straightforward 360-degree speaker.