Look over to one of the upper corners of the room you’re in. What’s there? If you’re like me, probably nothing.
Three Stanford product design majors are building a speaker to take advantage of the wasted space and natural acoustics of the corners of your room.
The Tiptop speaker is a small pyramid that can stand alone or fits into a mold made for the upper corners of a room; like a Jambox, it’s wireless and Bluetooth-enabled. When mounted in a corner, the speaker takes advantage of “room gain,” using the natural acoustics of a room to make the sound richer and more appealing.
“[The shape] changes how you use the product, but it also changes how the product uses the space” co-creator Jack Brody tells me, arguing that too many speakers are “repackaged goods” rather than actually fresh ideas.
They are aiming to raise $215,000 by June 1, just two weeks before the three seniors will graduate, to start producing the speakers. On Kickstarter, they’re selling Tiptops for early bird specials of $175 (first 200) and $199 (next 300), as well as the standard price of $249.
They also have philanthropic goals, pledging to give a portion of their proceeds to a Bay Area non-profit music foundation if they surpass $400,000 on Kickstarter, and lower, lighthearted goals, offering to do a push-up for every $1 donation “so we can get ourselves in Tiptop shape.”
The three product design majors worked on a social media aggregation site last spring, which they quickly abandoned.
“We knew we could never actually bring that to market,” Brody says. “This time around was totally different.”
They were in a capstone class for the product design major, where their classmates were working on a wide range of projects—from another successfully funded project Grip Clip to recyclable backpacks to run of the mill iOS apps.
Walker says they thought about the problems they and their friends had, particularly as college students and young adults living in small spaces.
One night this past fall, the three were in Walker’s room discussing ideas and music. Thompson was surfing Kickstarter for inspiration, while Walker sat at his desk; Brody lay on the floor looking up at the ceiling, when using the corners of the room struck him. They held the speaker up to the corner to test the sound and loved it.
“Things have kept happening like that,” Walker says. “It feels like the right use of our time because it’s almost developing itself. The idea came up very organically.”
They began making prototypes in Stanford’s Product Realization Lab, changing small details like smoothing the corners of the wall mount to make up for rooms’ imperfect corners.
They had friends come into a room with their eyes closed and would play songs for them with a speaker in the middle of the room and then with the speaker up in the corner. Walker says their friends thought they were playing two different speakers, and thought the “corner speaker” was much better.
They ran a similar test on me and it was my “aha” moment of reporting when I knew they were on to something. The same song sounded a lot richer and fuller when it was up in the corner. Plus, with a desk and room as messy as mine, I can use all the help I can get in de-cluttering.
Thompson, who is currently in New Jersey playing professional soccer for Sky Blue FC, balances training, schoolwork—she’s still an enrolled student and travels back to Palm Drive for the occasional test or meeting—and developing the product. As a result, Brody and Walker handle more of the physical iterations, while Thompson does more online work.
The trio hopes to raise their lofty Kickstarter goal to pay for more prototypes before settling on a final product and shipping to Kickstarter supports and potentially new customers by the holiday season in December.