A Bluetooth speaker housed in a championship tennis ball. A functional piece of tennis history where design meets British engineering and technology.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Wimbledon Championship tennis balls are retired from the tennis courts. But British engineering company, hearO, reimagined these leftover tennis balls and unlock their potential. They developed and created a speaker. Early concepts from this company included furniture, organisational tools and household objects. But eventually a tennis ball’s toughness, size and multi-layered construction made these applications interesting but impractical. Eventually a new concept of portable speaker was born.
Their premise is powerful yet simple and inspired by Industrial Designer Dieter Rams´ philosophy: “We have to move away from the throwaway habit. Things can, and must, last longer. They must be designed so that they can be reused.”
This piece of functional championship engineering features a 3W speaker with a sonic range of 100 Hz to 20K Hz and a 500 mAh battery. The design melds each piece with a white speaker grill on one side of the hollowed-out ball.
The audio company states “In order to make a meaningful product, we had to turn our design constraints into assets. A tennis ball’s toughness and hollow interior make it a ready-made protective case. The size and construction make it an ideal skin for personal electronics. We began exploring the potential for making portable speakers. To create a powerful speaker within a tennis ball, we would need to work with teams of specialists across multiple disciplines”
In order to merge the electronics with the tennis ball skin the company explored different cut shapes and techniques. A collaboration with expert rubber cutters from the Woodash Group in the Boot and Shoe Quarter of Northampton, England. Both groups experimented with press cutting and 3D-printed guides. The protective skin evolved from a simple band to a slanted form that preserves 75% of the tennis ball.
At the same time, the Innov8 Group was approached, a Paris-based atelier with extensive sound and electrical engineering experience.
Along with the Innov8 Group, the development of the electronics that complement the properties of a tennis ball was buildout. A series of prototypes optimising battery life, volume and sound quality finally achieved the optimal performance.
The electronic control system streamlined to a single button. And the speaker grill became a Fibonacci pattern enabling optimal sound projection.
“With our partners we developed an unconventional wireless speaker that brings together tennis, upcycling and product design. The soft tennis ball sets this speaker apart in a market dominated by metal and plastic casings, giving hearO a unique look, sound and feel”