Lumio, the maker of the Lito book-shaped folding light, is following up with another clever design object: a discrete speaker called the Teno. At first glance, the speaker, in either “Arctic White” or “Lava Black,” looks like a small stone bowl with a crack running across it. When pulled open, a warm light is exposed and sound pours out. Both the light and sound can be adjusted via touch sensors.
Lumio founder Max Gunawan’s 2015 appearance on Shark Tank spurred the creation of several knock-offs for his first product, the book-shaped Lito folding light. Gunawan apparently collects the knock-offs, so I’m eager to see if he’ll be starting a second collection of fake Tenos.
In direct contrast to conventional sleek gadget design, the Teno leans into a meditative, nature-based feel, with Lumio calling it a “modern interpretation of a sound bowl.” Its exterior is made of cast resin and sand, making it look more sculptural than technological. Gunawan says his goal is to create a piece of technology that “has a handcrafted quality to it rather than a typical industrial looking product that you see everywhere.”
A note on crowdfunding:
Crowdfunding is a chaotic field by nature: companies looking for funding tend to make big promises. According to a study run by Kickstarter in 2015, roughly 1 in 10 “successful” products that reach their funding goals fail to actually deliver rewards. Of the ones that do deliver, delays, missed deadlines, or overpromised ideas mean that there’s often disappointment in store for those products that do get done.
The best defense is to use your best judgment. Ask yourself: does the product look legitimate? Is the company making outlandish claims? Is there a working prototype? Does the company mention existing plans to manufacture and ship finished products? Has it completed a Kickstarter before?
And remember: you’re not necessarily buying a product when you back it on a crowdfunding site.
Art history buffs will notice the design is a nod to kintsugi: a Japanese method for mending broken pottery with gold seams. The “crack” in the Teno, which opens to reveal the light and speaker, is lined with gold paint. Kintsugi as a philosophy is often cited as a way to acknowledge the history of objects, rather than simply discarding those that break. With sustainability on many tech companies’ minds, Gunawan hopes “timeless” devices like the Teno will help to “break the cycle of yearly upgrades.” He says that unlike other products that quickly become obsolete, the Teno will develop a “patina” over the years that will only add to its beauty. It’s not entirely clear how attractive said patina will be, or exactly how long the speaker and light will continue to function.
At 250 lumens, the light from Teno is definitely more for ambience than to light your bedroom. In terms of sound, the single 45mm full range driver should be enough for a mid-sized room according to Lumio, covering around 50 to 200 square feet. Lumio encourages buyers to purchase two Tenos, at $300 each, which can be paired together for stereo sound. The expected battery life is four hours at 100 percent brightness for the light, and eight hours at 50 percent volume for the speaker.
The Teno is clearly a tactile object, made to fit in the palm of your hand. It weighs around two pounds and is just over two inches tall and five inches in diameter. It has Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and a noise-cancelling mic for taking calls. Lumio lists the full specifications on the Kickstarter campaign page, with rewards including a day with Max Gunawan and a custom-made Italian marble Teno at the $10,000 level. The campaign ends November 20th, 2020.