Blog Post

TeleSound: Because the internet of things needs toys

From the makers of ReaDIYmate, a Kickstarter project that lets you build connected sculptures using paper and some hardware modules, comes a new connected device: a speaker. Dubbed TeleSound, the Kickstarter project aims to make a connected speaker that let’s you use an app to send your friends sounds.

The idea is to develop devices that connect, not around a router or a desktop, but around a smartphone.

The TeleSound speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to a person’s smartphone. When the person enters the room, it turns on (if they want it to be quiet they can flip it over). When I use the app to choose an emoji icon, the speaker plays the sound associated with that icon. So if I click on a birthday cake, they get a few seconds of happy birthday. If I click on the whoopee cushion …. The possibilities are endless.

Is it silly? Yes. Is it something I’d love someone to give me as a gift? Also yes. In fact, I want to ship one to my colleagues in San Francisco just for the fun of trolling them with random noises.

Telesound_08The next question I had was if this is a real business. Olivier Mével, the co-founder of 23 de Enero, the three-year-old company behind both Kickstarter projects says it is. As he said in an interview, “We want to be a real business offering the fun side of the internet of things.”

He didn’t like my comparison to USB-connected toys. He pointed out that while these are whimsical, they are also social and online, giving the devices the ability to become a platform for interactions that help connect people over distances. He says:

“TeleSound is about feeling close and connected to your friends and family when you are not in the same room. It’s trying to replace the non-verbal communications that can be shared easily in real life — a hug, a frown, a smile, a groan — but that do not really have equivalents in digital communications. And sound is a great way to do it, because it’s a very direct and emotional medium.

TeleSound probably isn’t the next Twitter, but I can’t deny that for $34 I might pick one of these up as a present for a special geek. To get to that price point, which is very different from the $130 to $150 the ReaDIYmate sculptures cost, Mével used Bluetooth 4.0 as opposed to Wi-Fi. Mével said, “Our products are very price sensitive, and if you do Wi-Fi they are more expensive — in the $100 price range, but if you use Bluetooth it’s closer to $29 a product.”

Eventually the company will launch other products (Mevel was a founder of Nabaztag, a Wi-Fi connected rabbit that moved when you got email), but it will focus its resources now on Telesound. It plans to open the API between the device and the app so others can build products that use the speaker and icons. You could theoretically send a kiss sound via Facebook or the sound of a slow clap via Twitter one day.

Paris-based 23deenero has three full-time employees and has raised €200,000 ($260,168) from a variety of European angels. It plans to make money selling the devices, but may also charge advertisers for the opportunity to place an icon in the app. I can imagine tag lines for movies or would actually beg Texas Instruments to sponsor a Speak & Spell icon that shouts out “I win,” in the triumphant tone of the ancient toy.