The fact that fabric is now considered an industrial design material can be directly attributed to Google. When the company first designed smart speakers for homes, it deliberately looked to interior decor for inspiration. In came soft forms, fabric clads, leather trims, and home-friendly color palettes. Google’s smart home products played a pivotal role in reinventing how home appliances are designed to fit into their domestic surroundings rather than look like gadgets, and it’s something the Torso Speaker embraces so incredibly well with its statuesque design that draws inspiration from marble sculptures from the Greco-Roman times. The speaker’s bust-shape is a rather literal interpretation of turning gadgets into home-friendly decor, but there’s something immensely poetic about how it draws a balance between the two! By drawing from the beauty and perfection of marble sculptures, the speaker echoes those very attributes too – elegance, beauty, perfection.
What the Torso does is quite literally show us that we’re in a Renaissance period of smart home-appliance design. Speakers are being made to blend into surroundings, with them sometimes looking like lamps, furniture, or even as IKEA’s demonstrated, photo-frames. Designer Yang Dong Wook created the Torso speaker in the image of Michelangelo’s bust of David, bringing its nuanced classical qualities into product design. Created as a part of Samsung’s Design Membership Program, the Torso speaker explores the relationship between interiors and gadgets (sort of the same way Samsung’s Serif TV did). The speaker looks remarkably like an abstract bust you’d proudly place on your mantelpiece, displaying for all your guests to see. It adopts the same shapes, contours, and tilts as the Bust of David, with the slanted shoulders and the slightly angled head, resulting in an incredibly expressive form.
The speaker’s built to scale and serves a highly elevated decorative purpose in its surroundings. Its neck acts as a vessel, allowing you to use the speaker as a vase or a place to hang your ornaments, and that gray finish gives it a pristine marble-like appearance too.
While the upper part of the Torso serves as a vase-like container, its collar area comes outfitted with the speakers, sitting under a fabric clad. The speakers fire forwards (because of how the Torso has a very definite front profile), while passive radiator channels in the bottom create a reverberating bass.
The controls for the speaker are located on the shoulder of the bust. A power button on the left lets you switch the Torso on or off, and a Bluetooth button on the right lets you connect a device. The shoulder-bridge sports a touch-sensitive volume slider, so increasing or decreasing the volume becomes an incredibly interactive, almost sensual experience, as you drag your fingertip down the Torso’s shoulder. Talk about a product having sex appeal!!
The Torso speaker does a few things pretty adeptly. For designers and companies, it shows how inspiration can be found practically anywhere. For a consumer, it unlocks an absolutely new category of products that redefine tech and home decor completely, combining the timeless beauty of Greco-Roman sculptures with a contemporary, functional product… but most importantly, for the vast design movement, it shows how a design can have a timeless quality to it, by borrowing from something that’s truly iconic, classical, and evergreen in its allure!
Designer: Yang Dong Wook