The wares on display at CES 2017 offered the shiny chrome, metallic and futuristic finishes we’ve come to expect from a tech expo. But accessories and designs featuring felt, wood, "artfully weathered" leather and even fake grass were also evident, suggesting tech companies are anticipating (or accommodating) a consumer hankering for design that is artisanal or feels more natural.
Touch of the forest
Onanoff’s stick-on protective skins for MacBooks were among the most gorgeous uses of wood on display at CES. Sure, these thin, precision-cut and removable cover panels aren’t solving world hunger, but they have a wonderfully Scandinavian-design feel that combines (sustainably sourced) wood with your MacBook for a really premium overall impression.
The covers have three components — cover, underside and palm rests — and are available in oak, smoked oak, American walnut and Indian apple wood. They will protect against scratching, staining and small bumps (but are not designed for serious impact or drops). They also promise to leave no sticky residue when removed, because of their own patented adhesive. Price: $69.95.
Other brands featuring wood prominently in their designs included Red Hat’s wood-housed Mission computers and Klipsch’s Heritage range of wood-and-leather headphones.
Japanese manufacturer Shibaful’s faux-lawn accessories are both eye catching and unique — and clearly a divisive point for reviewers. Some said the parks-inspired smartphone cases, purses and coasters were among the "weirdest" they’d seen at CES 2017, while others, myself included, thought they were fresh
A very small sample of SA journalists at CES seemed to split down gender lines, with the men in the group laughing the accessories off as oddities and the few women literally oohing and aahing at the textured feel and the multicoloured, vertically attached fibres that make up the "lawn".
Shibaful markets the product as a way to take a piece of your favourite park with you wherever you go. Different colour turfs correspond to famous parks around the world, such as
London’s Hyde Park and New York’s
The covers themselves are polycarbonate and covered in turf made from an electrostatically flocked nylon that Shibaful says won’t wear off easily. They do, however, pick up dirt and fluff, so Shibaful sells a cleaner tool separately, or advises you to use a toothbrush or lint remover, or to wash the covers in water (sans the smartphone, naturally). Prices start at $40.
Designer-tech collaborations are not new, but they are growing at a rate of knots. CES 2017 exhibitions included smartwatches and trackers from the likes of Michael Kors, Coach and Fossil. Some of the prettiest designer accessories on the show floor included the Kate Spade bracelet and watch wearables, and Cynthia Rowley’s range of earphones, and tablet and laptop covers.
Designer wearables — and simply more elegant wearables, like the Withings Activité watch and Fitbit pendants — are officially mainstream, and they reflect the manufacturers’ realisation that tech design needs to work harder to include options for a diverse group of buyers.
The writer was a guest of Samsung at CES 2017