The twisted logic behind the Beosound 5 digital audio center is becoming clearer after a briefing with British concept and prototype developer Oliver Wallington.
The initial concept was to bring a sense of analogue and mechanical to a digital interface. In order to do this, Oliver hacked apart a mouse, turned it into a wheel, and mounted it to the size of a 10in display.
This concept was just about user interface - it wasn't even an audio product yet.
But the reaction was good, so the MOTS (More Of The Same) algorithm was built in for auto playlist creation and the screen was used to control a music library.
nitially the opposite side of the screen to the control wheel was a set of buttons and the idea was that you would 'ping pong' selections between both sides (a genre first on the right, and artist on the left, a song on the right, etc).
But then someone asked a very Bang & Olufsen question: what do I do when I have a glass of wine in my hand? And so the one-sided control was born, with the scrollwheel supported by a lever behind it that controls a virtual laserbeam that selects items on the other side of the screen (watch the video and hopefully you'l get the idea).
It's certainly a unique control system, and it sidesteps the problems of using a touchscreen (like the fact that they're fingerprint magnets - and the fact they're totally software driven, when B&O is all about hardware). But it's also a little confusing - it took me about 5 minutes to find the volume control (a third wheel).
Once you get the hang of it you'll soon feel like you're in control of the Starship Enterprise. But without the immediacy of the iPod clickwheel, it's difficult to say whether the UI will be a voyage of magical discovery... or a gimmick.
So will it capture the imagination of those people who invested in a Beosound 9000, or just end up like another Seranata? We won't find out until the Beosound 5 goes on sale in February (prices TBC)