Tech is crashing the world’s biggest design fair

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Every April, thousands descend upon Milan for the most important event of the year for the design industry. Centered around Salone del Mobile–the Milan Furniture Fair–it’s a week filled with design events, installations, and announcements of new collections that will shape the industry for the next year, and it’s been that way for most of its nearly 60-year existence.

But lately, it hasn’t just been design companies turning up for Milan Design Week: Tech companies, from Apple to Google, have been coming too. This year, the biggest players in home tech–including Sony, LG, and Bang & Olufsen, as well as Google–are out in force, showing off new TVs and installations that hint at their future ambitions. Their presence points to the increasing presence of technology in how we think about our homes–while also illustrating how tech companies are eager to portray their products as design-driven.

THE TVS OF SALONE

This year’s Salone features multiple TV makers, all aiming to solve the main issue with the genre: Televisions are ugly black wastes of space when they’re not in use, which is most of the time.

Bang & Olufsen is launching a new, shape-shifting television-speaker hybrid called the Beovision Harmony that changes its form based on how you want to use it. When you’re not watching TV, the 77-inch OLED screen sits behind two panels made of oak and aluminum that house a powerful speaker system. When it’s time for Game of Thrones on Sunday night, you hit a button and the two panels magically open up as the screen rises behind them. It’s a lovely system, even if it’s completely inaccessible for most people: The television will retail in the company’s stores this fall for 18,500 euros (the U.S. price has yet to be determined).

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The Beovision Harmony isn’t the only television being presented as interior design this week. LG’s rollable OLED television, which was first announced at the consumer electronics trade show CES in January 2019, also makes an appearance in an experiential installation that mainly serves to show off the intense colors the TV is capable of displaying. Designed in collaboration with the British architecture studio Foster + Partners, the television unfurls when there’s bright light in the room and then slowly rolls away when it becomes dark.

Similarly, Panasonic partnered with Vitra to debut a cabinet with a glass panel that transforms into a screen when you turn it on.

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