Spotify Player Brings Back Physical Media

A radio with a white front grate and wood edges sits on a grey surface. Next to the radio are small white disks with colorful edges reminicient of microdisc-sized records. A yellow-ringed disk sits on the radio. The handwritten title says, "Summer of 2011; Holidays in Barcelona"

Digital music has made keeping all your tunes with you a lot more convenient, but have we lost something with dematerialization? [Jordi Parra] felt that there was something lacking with the digital music experience and designed a Spotify player with a tactile interface.

Specific playlists are selected via small RFID tags that look like a cross between a MiniDisc and a vinyl record. As this is a prototype, an Arduino reads the RFID tag, but needs a computer to actually play the Spotify playlist. Future iterations could include an integrated speaker and run libspotify to create a self-contained device.

While there is still work to do for a fully seamless experience, we love the details in the industrial design of this project. Clean simple lines and a combination of wood and more modern materials make this feel like a timeless piece of tech. Definitely check out the full photo gallery including shots of the really impressive packaging.

Want more digital music with a tactile interface? Check out this MP3 Player Shelf or a Simple Internet Radio Transplant.

21 thoughts on “Spotify Player Brings Back Physical Media

    1. Sure and if that works for you, great!
      Stuff like this always prompts a lot of “well why not just do x” that reminds me of a sweet older lady who’s son called us at the office once half a decade or so ago. We were a local repair shop and she was in a nursing home & the son wasn’t local. He wanted our advice to help this woman who’d only ever really used a radio stream radio stations from across the country via a laptop. We were sympathetic to the problem and we went to visit her & sat down and made it as absolutely simple as we could. We set up her laptop to log in automatically and we cleared *everything* off her desktop except a set of bookmarks that took her to the relevant radio stations directly so she’d never have to find them (even cranked the desktop font size to make it easier). It just didn’t work, she *could* do all the steps, but her memory wasn’t great and without the web experience of a generation that was born (or adapted) to such things it just didn’t click with her. We got called back several times & each time solved the problem patiently (ok you have to close all the windows before you open a new one, or you seem to have bumped the volume, etc etc). We stopped letting them pay us long before we stopped visiting her. Nothing ever worked and at the time I remember thinking “man if I had a physical device that she could interact with she could totally do this”. Obviously this device is aimed at spotify but I bet the same basic idea could *easily* be adapted to streaming audio, in fact I’d be shocked if someone hadn’t made a fake radio with preset buttons mapped to specific audio streams just for this purpose.

      All that is to say that the purpose of a device like this might be “because they can” (which is a perfectly valid reason) but a lot of devices like this really shine when you give them to the sort of people that’d never find their way to a website like this. So I keep an eye out for projects like this in case I encounter one of them.

      1. ” in fact I’d be shocked if someone hadn’t made a fake radio with preset buttons mapped to specific audio streams just for this purpose.”

        ISTR HaD blogged something like that _years_ ago.
        Sorry, I don’t recall any tags for you to search with.

        1. The only issue is that the internet always changes, so you’d need someone to re-configure it every n-months. Companies like to keep changing their websites/apps/APIs and addresses to “generate buzz”.

      2. With older people, tech starts to become “magic” again even when they have used it for their entire lives. Memory problems, stroke, or the beginnings of Alzheimer means that the physical radio would probably be incomprehensible unless it has the exact buttons as the old radio they had in 1958. A newer radio with different buttons and dials in different places – just as hopeless.

        Computers, phones, anything that requires you to access a “menu” and has internal states is a lost cause because it requires you to remember which state you’re in and that part of the brain doesn’t work any longer. That applies to a lot of physical devices as well. A combination player that can be switched from CD to radio to cassette will be always stuck in the “CD” position and they’ll call you to solve why it doesn’t work (instead of asking the nurse) – until you hot-glue the switch to “radio”. Then they’ll complain why the CD doesn’t work.

        Though half the time they do that on purpose to drag you into the nursing home anyways. Sometimes they forget to actually “break” the radio, so when you come the switch is in the right position and they still complain that it doesn’t work.

        1. My mother was given a tablet in her late eighties, I don’t think she used a computer much before that. Enjoyed it. But she didn’t like the fancy hearing aid.

          I’m not planning to live that long, “hope I die before I get old”

          1. As long as they’re still independent, it can work as long as they’re willing and the device is not some cheapo junk 100 dollar special. When they start forgetting to turn the stove off, the tablet becomes “magic” again.

  1. I think it would be much simpler to just use a smartphone. Many android phones have RFID capability. There are existing app that can be programmed to trigger actions. Power the phone on with the App running, figure out a way to keep the app running with the screen off and hide phone in a box. The phone can play music directly either via headphone jack or bluetooth. Better yet, focus the time on writing an app that suits your need. There is no shortage of old smartphones. Most people already have 2+ in their drawer.

    At one point, I also had an idea that equips a PC with a barcode scanner. Just pull a CD off the shelf, run it through the bar code and the PC will play the music previously ripped from the CD, saving the CD from wear and tear while at the same time let you enjoy the real album art. A smartphone can do that too, using its camera with proper setup.

      1. Or the related question, what kind of hardware would you need (is it available?) so you wouldn’t get the occasional memory corruption or random bit flip that crashes your phone? Also, you need to block updates, but then you’ll eventually get kicked out of the player app.

    1. Since it’s a fixed playlist, you could just pull it down to a small hard drive and play it from there. Whether you consider an SD card “physical media” is up to you.

      That would actually be a fun device though. There’s bound to be lots of 256 MB SD cards kicking around from all the old cameras and whatnot, that never got used because they were too small to begin with – but just large enough to contain a music album. Have a stack of those.

  2. As I have commented many times there are “radios” that have simple buttons to to get to that you want to hear for the blind. They work and now have been thrown a spanner when the source station goes from a simple URL to a web page with a (eventually) a button with an equilateral triangle on it’s side pointing right to be pressed-clicked to hear the radio station. Some blind aren’t old.

    1. There’s a big problem with everything going to streaming and online walled garden apps, because you eventually lose access. The service won’t even exist 20, 40 years from now. That’s why I keep “backups” if necessary, and I refuse to buy from anyone/anything that doesn’t offer a direct download.

      1. My sister subscribed to Disney+. I was surprised that classic films from the sixties aren’t included. Though I’ve not been able to get them on DVD either. But the movies Ihave are mine.

  3. I’m not sure if this will ever go past the small concept he made. I absolutely love this and would use it all the time. The last update to this was 2011, hopefully we can see another. If spotify is willing to make this an actual product, i’d be willing to spend the money.

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