Year in review: the 10 best tech stories of 2021


New technologies often walk a tightrope between the necessary and the unnecessary. With our reliance on digital devices increasing over the year, most of us have favored raw features over quirky shapes, as well as the ability to step away from technology where possible. On the flip side, businesses of all sizes have found new ways to innovate, whether it’s refining old favorites, emphasizing longevity over throwaway, or simply create new forms of surprise and pleasure. In no particular order, the following ten stories are tech publisher Jonathan Bell’s favorite forays into the intersection of design and the digital world, with a healthy dose of care, craftsmanship, and creativity.

Top 10 tech stories of the year

01. Transparent Light portable speaker makes the party shine

The Light speaker (photo courtesy of Transparent)

Portable speaker and lamp at the same time, the Light speaker by Swedish technology company Transparent is inspired by the traditional lantern. Transparent may be small, but he has big ambitions. Founded in 2011, the Stockholm-based brand quickly rose to prominence with its iconic Transparent Speaker, a striking piece of industrial design that bares its inner workings through meticulous industrial design. Their new Light speaker pushes all of our buttons. Writer: Jonathan Bell

02. Cosmo, the avant-garde version of the electric guitar by Verso Instruments

The Cosmo Plus Guitar (Photograph courtesy of Verso Instruments)

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen the electric guitar go through one of its periodic rebirths. While the instrument is regularly seen as an old and embarrassing technology, beloved by baby boomers and unrelated to modern mores, interest is still generated by covers and returns, as well as a constant stream of innovators. able to do new things with six strings and a piece of wood. What rarely changes is the form factor of the guitar; musical innovation does not necessarily need technological change. This is where Verso Musical Instruments comes in. Founded by industrial designer Robin Stummvoll and based in Hessen, Germany, Verso Musical Instruments makes different electric guitars. Writer: Jonathan Bell

03. Urbanista’s New ‘Los Angeles’ Headphones Are Solar-Powered Stars

Urbanista Los Angeles Helmet in Sand Gold and Midnight Black (Photography courtesy of Urbanista)

Swedish tech brand Urbanista is trying to do something a little different. The company’s newest product is dubbed “Los Angeles,” a sunny destination for a pair of wireless headphones that can be recharged using the sun. We spoke to Anders Andreen, founder and CEO of Urbanista, about this new approach to energy saving technology and attention to detail. “We make products for modern planners,” says Andreen. “Our brand, our products and our packaging all have to stand out, just like a fashion brand. These headphones have to be something you want to wear. Writer: Jonathan Bell

04. Virtual supercars offer a new kind of driving experience

CURV x Aston Martin AMR-C01 (image courtesy of CURV Racing Simulators)

Virtual supercars and sim racing delights allow you to test the limits of an Aston Martin Valkyrie or a Zagato, for example, without leaving the comfort of your gaming living room. For those with the space – Whether in living rooms, offices, garages or even dedicated play complexes – this new generation of digital driving experience has been developed in close collaboration with manufacturers and designers. We’ve found a fleet of virtual supercars ready to take on the world’s toughest circuits and most spectacular roads from the comfort of home. Writer: Jonathan Bell

05. Wallpaper * Smart Space Awards: best new design and technology for the home

Wallpaper * Smart Space Awards: the best new design and tech products for the home (Photo: Neil Godwin at Future Studios)

In 2021, we unveiled the winners of our very first Smart Space Awards, a striking selection of the best new technology and design products for the home. The jury included architect Tosin Oshinowo, of the Nigerian firm CM Design Atelier (which is part of our Directory of Architects 2021); artist, musician and designer Yuri Suzuki; and Harrods Retail Director Veronica Forin as well as Wallpaper * Editor-in-Chief Sarah Douglas and Transportation and Technology Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Bell. The five sifted through a substantial stack of entries, looking for inspiring items and technology built to last. As always, the winners are very Wallpaper *, a celebration of undeniable beauty, striking design and intuitive function. Writer: Jonathan Bell

06. Mod Devices open source instrument pedals play a different tune

The Dwarf MOD (Photo: Amos Fricke)

Berlin-based Mod Devices is creating a new generation of versatile audio tools. The small business subscribes to the philosophy that systems should be open to those with the time and skills to effect change. Mod builds effects processors for musicians of all stripes, with each device a building block for an unlimited world of sound. Simply put, its digital boxes sit between the instrument and the amplifier, allowing players to layer different effects in an endless number of ways, as well as create their own. Writer: Jonathan Bell

07. Minimalist speaker designs blend audio and art

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Level (image courtesy of Bang & Olufsen)

A new generation of audio design is putting overt technology on the back burner in favor of warm materials, simple shapes and ultimate flexibility. We bring together the best ways to bring high fidelity sound into your home with the ultimate levels of stealth and taste. From Bang & Olufsen to Bose, KEF, Braun and Sound-Aesthetics, these are speakers we would be very happy to live with. Writer: Jonathan Bell

08. Fender Looks Into The Future With New Hybrid Guitar Design

Fender Acoustasonic Jazzmaster (image courtesy of Fender)

The Fender Acoustasonic Jazzmaster is a hybrid design with a built-in “acoustic engine,” a processor that transforms its clean but neutral tones into a variety of different guitar types. When it was launched in 1959, the Fender Jazzmaster was originally intended, unsurprisingly, for jazz musicians. It quickly found more favor as a nasal surf rock instrument before experiencing a cult revival in the 1980s and 1990s. Acoustasonic in shape, it remains one of Fender’s most elegant shapes, with a thin neck. and fast that is suitable for many playing styles. Pair this instrument with a modern effects processor and you’ve got a beautifully designed versatile device that flatters the everyday player but sounds good enough for professional use. Writer: Jonathan Bell

09. Syng rethinks the art of speaker design

Cell Alpha Speaker by Syng (image courtesy of Syng)

Syng was started by Christopher Stringer, a product designer with over 20 years of experience at Apple, where he worked on various iterations of the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Apple Watch. Its co-founder, Damon Way, founded skatewear specialists DC Shoes and was also a partner of accessories specialist Incase. As Brand Director of Syng, he will bring to bear his extensive experience in artist collaborations, while Stringer’s role as CEO and Director of Design gives the new company a solid foundation in product-focused products. on design, starting with the Cell Alpha Speaker. In addition to the solid components and case, the Cell Alpha incorporates Syng’s “Triphonic” sound, a means of mapping space to help shape sound, with the three-horned “Triphone” sound project at the center of it. the object shaped using 3D printing. Writer: Jonathan Bell

10. Inside Apple Park: First Look at the Design Team Shaping the Future of Tech

Apple Park, Photography: Jason Schmidt

And finally, no excuse for mentioning one of our biggest stories of the year, an exclusive worldwide interview with the Apple Design team. Led by Evans Hankey and Alan Dye, Apple’s design team exerts a tremendous influence on the evolution of our relationship with technology. By opening the doors of their studio at Apple Park in Cupertino for the first time, they offered us a deep dive into the work processes behind their latest creations. Writer: Jonathan Bell



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