How invisible tech has become the new frontier in home decor

With devices that smoothly go from functional to fabulous-looking and can be tailored to taste - invisible tech has become the new frontier in home decor.

Samsung’s television The Frame. Courtesy of Samsung
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The march of technology into our homes is continuing unabated, but judging from the propositions presented at last week's Milan Furniture Fair, the onus now is on invisible tech – solutions that blend seamlessly into our interiors, and are as aesthetically pleasing as they are useful. Technology for technology's sake, be gone.

Samsung’s new breed of televisions is a case in point. The electronics giant has unveiled The Frame, a so-called “lifestyle TV” that is due to launch this year and, in a testament to the brand’s design-first approach, was created in collaboration with Swedish designer Yves Béhar.

Envisaged as a design feature in itself, The Frame takes the form of an oversized picture frame, which, thanks to Samsung’s new Invisible Connection and No Gap Wall-Mount, sits snug on your wall. When the TV’s Art Mode is on, instead of fading to black like a traditional device, The Frame’s display shows works of art. Users can select from about 100 art pieces across 10 different categories, ranging from landscape and architecture to wildlife and action.

“The Frame empowers you to think about TV in a new way, bringing art and entertainment into new parts of your home. This is how television transforms – and becomes an essential part of your lifestyle,” says Dave Das, senior vice president of consumer electronics marketing, Samsung Electronics America.


The BeoSound Shape sound system.

Courtesy Bang & Olufsen

In a similar vein, Bang & Olufsen debuted its latest innovation, the BeoSound Shape, at the Milan Furniture Fair. The sound system consists of a series of hexagonal tiles that can function either as speakers, amplifiers or acoustic dampers. “The indoor climate is all-important to our well-being. One aspect is light. Another factor is air quality. But equally important are the acoustics, as they impact us on both a physical and psychological level,” notes Øivind Alexander Slaatto, designer of the BeoSound Shape.

Their hexagonal shape means the tiles can be arranged to create countless configurations. “The hexagon is one of nature’s favoured forms, seen in anything from snowflakes to honeycombs, and makes perfect sense in repetitive and expanding structures. Every outcome is unique and there is a sense of natural beauty in these infinite variations,” says Slaatto.

The tiles are covered in a wool fabric by Danish textiles brand Kvadrat and come in appealing shades of brown, green, pink and dark blue. Once positioned, the BeoSound Shape becomes a bona fide wall feature, rather than a mere conduit for sound.

Both The Frame and the BeoSound Shape are indicative of a trend towards solutions that can be adapted to serve the individual needs of their users. This is the future, says professor Carlo Ratti, founder of Carlo Ratti Associati studio and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “In the future, we could imagine an architecture that adapts to human need, rather than the other way around – a living, tailored space that is moulded to its inhabitants’ needs, characters and desires,” he says.

Carlo Ratti Associati took advantage of the Milan Furniture Fair to officially unveil the Lift-Bit – a shape-shifting sofa that is embedded with motion-tracking sensors, which can be reconfigured remotely via an app or with a simple gesture of your hand. While the Lift-Bit has been seen before, it was officially launched in a ready-for-production version, with sleek new birch wood legs, and is now available for pre-order worldwide.


Lift-Bit, the shape-shifting sofa.

Courtesy Carlo Ratti Association

The seating system, which was created in association with the Milan-based Opendot Fab Lab, consists of a series of individual, upholstered stools, the heights of which can be controlled at will and be reconfigured to form a bed, a chaise longue, a group of armchairs, or even a play space for children.

The Lift-Bit app includes a series of predetermined shapes, as well as a tool to create your own combinations. “Lift-Bit gives people the possibility to actively contribute to the design of their own space,” says Alessandro Masserdotti, co-founder of Opendot. “It is a participatory design, which never ceases to surprise you, and it surely cannot bore you.”