Aivia slaps a touchscreen on a slanted wireless speaker

Hugh Behroozy is obsessed with symmetry — so much so that they wanted his company’s name is even symmetric.

And that’s why the Aivia, a combo subwoofer/speaker, is slanted — so it will fit seamlessly against a wall and not jut out because of a charging cable. The speaker also has a screen built into it, which may seem like an odd decision to make for a startup. But Behroozy and president Martin Balcerzak are making a bet that a speaker like that will still be best with a touchscreen control and be differentiated from the rest of the massive wireless speaker market.

“There are a lot of startup companies that can take major risks where bigger corporations can’t do that,” Behroozy said. “They have a lot of stages to go through to get those approvals. It’s very risky for a big company to add a screen like they haven’t in the last 10 years. They do whats worked for them. For us its more about innovation — bringing something new to the market completely, changing the way people think about tech. People think about a speaker just producing sound, now we’re saying no, it can produce sound and control your home.”

Aivia the speaker, which they are planning to ship this year after an Indiegogo campaign, at CES 2017. It puts out more than 35 watts of power, and has a battery life of up to 8 hours, Balcerzak said. So, when you might go on a camping trip, you can let your kids watch an episode of a show in a tent and then take it out to play music the next day. At least, that’s the hope, he said.

aivia back

Aivia is also betting that having an open platform that’s flexible — it’s built on Android — will attract developers who might have to work within closed ecosystems with specific software guidelines, Balcerzak said. So hotel chains, for example, could create a custom experience for potential guests that would create a new way to bring people in.

Aivia doesn’t yet have a price tag, but the company is trying to keep it down as low as possible. Balcerzak said they are hoping to get something in the $200 to $300 price range — which would try to open it up to as many consumers as possible. Even if it means they don’t end up making that much money (or losing for a while), getting that install base is important because Aivia can figure out what users are actually doing with the speaker.

There’s obviously a ton of competition here, especially with connected speaker systems like Sonos and other wireless speakers that connect to your phone. And the screen might seem a little much — and even unnecessary — because you can control all of this with your smartphone or with your voice if you have an Amazon Echo. But it doesn’t seem to a complete negative to have a screen there just in case, even if most of the control still comes from voice or a smartphone.

It’s also going to be a challenge for Aivia as people seem to be more open to sacrificing quality in some areas — like sound fidelity for wireless earbuds — in exchange for more novel or easier use cases. Having a kitchen-sink approach may, in the end, completely bomb, and the prospects of building hardware from a crowdfunding campaign can quickly turn a project into vaporware. Or, for Balcerzak, it might be novel enough that it will spark some curiosity and get things off the ground.

“We were founded in January 2015, we went into Best Buy and couldn’t find a combination of various tech incorporated in one device, an all in one,” Balcerzak said. “Why have three devices combined into one. We found the wireless portable speaker market hasn’t changed in the last ten years. Maybe there’s a slight angle change, but there’s no huge game changer. That’s what we’ve done here. We want something that sets us apart from all the competition out there.”