Every toy and electronics maker wants to get on the edutainment train. And understandably so. After all, who wouldn’t want to make the toy that kickstarts the lifelong fascination of the next Nikola Tesla or Ada Lovelace? But such a glut of products highlights a consistent issue with the space: Educational toys are easy to do, but hard to do well.
As the first entry in its planned BOSEbuild line of educational products, Bose’s Speaker Cube has a lot hanging on it. The product will set the tone for the premier audio company’s somewhat off-brand foray into a wholly new space. So naturally, the company sticks fairly close to home, with a kit that promise to show kiddos the magical inner workings of a Bluetooth speaker.
The $149 system relies heavily on the company’s Sound app, which essentially serves as an interactive instructional manual. Offering a step-by-step guide and videos, and doubling as a sort of control panel for the speaker in its various construction states, it’s a handy interactive guide that offers context for the creation and helps keep the builder on track.
It’s easily the high point of the Speaker Cube’s design, and hopefully will serve as an integral part of forthcoming installments in the BOSEbuild line. As for the hardware, the company hasn’t figured out how much control to offer up to its users, particularly as ceding full control would mean that buyers might not end up with a working speaker when all is said and done.
The system is divided into two separate builds. First, there’s a basic paper speaker that demonstrates the magnet and coil system at the center of the technology. The app offers a cursory understanding of how electrical currents create vibrations and produce sound, while letting the user manipulate different aspects through a series of sliders. Next up, the app asks the users to cut out a paper housing for the mini-speaker.
Then it’s a bit of a jump to the final speaker. From here, it’s mostly plugging things in and snapping together the plastic shell housing with the 40 included clips. Once together, you can manipulate the sound levels and control a light show. Bose also offers up a nod to its own in-house sound engineering by showing you just how the speaker sounds when tuned up the right way.
The Speaker Cube is a fun idea that fails to fully deliver on its promise. It’s more of a cursory peek into the inner workings of an electronic device than it is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-figure-out-how-things-work educational product. Once you’re done, you’ve got a passable Bluetooth speaker and not much else. Customization is limited to a few paper stencils and a light show.
As it stands, the system feels like a $149 Bose Bluetooth speaker with a little bit of education tossed into the mix.