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Innovation

High-tech meets low-tech in wood-wrapped electronics trend

A new earphone is made in part with reclaimed wood, which reportedly improves sound quality. But is wood's tactile appeal what really draws us to wood-based electronics accessories?

There is a good reason guitars and violins are made with wood and not plastic, says Griffin Technology, a maker of accessories for personal electronics, in the marketing material for its new wood-encased earphones. "Music loves wood."

So will music sound better as it's pumped through these new WoodTones earbuds, made partially with reclaimed wood? Griffin says the wood will "accentuate vocals and bass while also improving sound volume" so that users will be able to lower their normal volume levels.  More appealing to me are the "super soft TPE [thermoplastic elastomer] cable jackets" that coat the leads, which connect your digital music player to the tiny speakers, thereby muting external noise and vibrations.

But with the earbuds, Griffin is carving into an interesting trend in electronics accessories: using low tech (wood) to dress up high tech (smartphones, tablets, etc.). Wood offers a soft "hand" or feel, which appeals to consumers and perhaps makes us all feel a little less like cyborgs as we fill out pockets and backpacks with an array of portable electronics. Silicon covers, on the other hand, remind us how synthetic many of the items we handle every day have become.

Wood is also appealing to manufacturers because it is renewable and readily salvaged as production scrap material. That puts the "eco" in the economics of marketing these items. Plus, laser cutters are great for customizing, decorating and branding wood.

Another great example of this trend is the SkateBack, a iPhone cover (of sorts...it's just a flat back cover, which makes me seriously dubious about its utility) made of recycled skateboard deck wood. SkateBack is made through a collaboration between Grove, a maker of wooden covers for the iPhone 4 and iPads; Maple XO, a startup that makes jewelry from used skateboard; and PS Stix, an American skateboard manufacturer.

PS Stix creates an endless stream of skateboard scrap at its production facility in Costa Mesa, California, so Grove and MapleXO are working together to turn that scrap into the SkateBack.

As we learned in this post about artist Haroshi and his skateboard sculptures, decks are composites of many, multicolored layers. This detail makes for a mighty pretty phone accessory, as you'll see here:

By the way, the SkateBack can be yours for $49.

Image: Griffin Technology

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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