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Can a wooden slab replace the feel of a vinyl LP or hard-cover book? Qleek thinks so

French startup Ozenge sets the bar high with its very first planned  product, Qleek, a sophisticated piece of technology that staunchly defies one-word labels and simplistic definitions. Essentially, Qleek aims to take digital media that lives on the Internet or in the Cloud, and put it in your hands, but in a really quirky way. In fact, you could say Ozenge is developing a new media form altogether. 

Once the product is released (Ozenge aims to get it to market by the end of the year), users will begin by choosing their favorite websites, Netflix movies, YouTube videos, eBook collections, Spotify playlists, etc. — any digital content. The next step involves sending these favorite links of yours to the Qleek mother-ship (probably via some streamlined website or app), which then processes your selections and creates a hexagonal wooden chip for each one. You get to design the appearance of each chip which can have ramifications once you get a collection going.

These chips (“Tapps”) are mailed to your doorstep and when you place a (RFID-enabled) Tapp of your choice onto the wood-framed Tapp-reader, that oh-so-adored Hall & Oates video magically appears on your TV, potentially with the music flowing from your speakers. Of course, you’ll have to connect the wireless Tapp-reader via Bluetooth to a set of speakers and/or a television via a Chromecast-like HDMI dongle that facilitates streaming video and audio (Ozenge is still working out the details here). 

As your Tapp collection widens, the “Hive” (a mountable wall plate for Tapp storage) begins transforming into a colorful tapestry of digital media, immortalized in a wooden honeycomb-shaped collage, as shown in Ozenge’s video preview for the product. These physical incarnations of digital media are intended to be traded, collected and perhaps coveted — who knows, we could be reluctantly handing these treasures down to our great-grandchildren one day … maybe. 

It seems the mission of Qleek is to bridge the gap between the fading nostalgia of physical media (crackly records, weathered hardback books, that worn cardboard box filled with VHS tapes) and the brilliant simplicity of our digitally enhanced consumption and organization of media. As we see it, though, there’s an inherent flaw in the concept: The chips are static, but the Internet is not. What happens when Netflix pulls the movie or TV series you’ve assigned to a chip, or Pandora gets bought out or changes its domain name. There’s no getting away from the fact that the Internet is a very dynamic place and in constant flux. What happens when these chips point to a place on the Internet that no longer exists? 

Ozenge is still beta-testing and improving upon Qleek, which was initially cranked out of the intense Le Camping accelerator in Paris — an incubator of sorts, specifically for tech startups.