Sony envisioned a society with invisible technology in 2018. The Hidden Senses exhibition, which was held during Milan Design Week that year, featured a candle holder that doubled as a light switch, a stone-like object that changed the volume of a nearby speaker when moved, and a bird sculpture whose shadow took flight when a finger was brushed across it.
The exhibition presented a fascinating design-first alternative to the smart home, in which displays and dashboards were substituted with technology that blends in with your home’s decor.
The objects on display were merely conceptual conversation starters, but the underlying concept—that technology can be integrated into virtually anything—is now one step closer to becoming a reality.
Recently, Sony unveiled a collection of furniture designs that were exhibited in an exhibition titled Staydream at the NYCxDesign design festival.
Designed in collaboration with the Shanghai-based furniture manufacturer Stellar Works, the collection features an assortment of subtly tech-infused smart home items, such as an upholstered room divider called Byobu.
That conceals an array of Sony speakers; a surreal wallpaper with an overlaid video projection of moving elements that can be controlled by sliding a mug on a nearby coffee table; and an interactive glass screen displaying a misty mountain sand dune.
Sony’s invisibility pitch
According to Hirotaka Tako, the director of Sony’s Design Centre in Europe, Staydream is a continuation of Hidden Senses, but this time the offerings are more oriented toward the hospitality industry, where experience is paramount.
According to Yuichiro Hori, founder and CEO of Stellar Works, interactive wallpaper could be used to spruce up a wall behind a reception desk. The speaker-enhanced Byobu partitions would be an excellent addition to a hotel foyer.
Sony hopes that by forming a partnership with Stellar Works, they can expand their business opportunities and bring their ideas to market more efficiently.
Tako explains, “We wanted to make it more realistic by using real furniture that we couldn’t create.” The Stellar Works furniture pieces are currently prototypes that are too costly to place on the market.
However, within the next six months, the team hopes to reduce the cost and create products that are simple to transport and assemble.
The ultimate objective is to investigate the intersection between physical and digital in order to provide people with distinct experiences by allowing them to interact with the spaces they’re in.
A magical wallpaper may appear pointless (and it probably is), but no smart home or high-tech hotel room can match the excitement I felt when I realized I could make the moon on that wallpaper move by sliding a teacup across a table.