Music is personal. It’s tied to our identities, our emotions, even our friends. So the idea that a complex algorithm could make us smarter about music is counter-intuitive. The creators of Cone, a wireless speaker that learns what you like and builds on it, think they’ve cracked the code. Cone is the first product by Aether Things, a San Francisco-based company that draws on decades of research in machine learning to build “things that think.” When I met its Chief Product Officer Duncan Lamb last week, he summed up the company’s mission with a question: “How is it that we’ve got all this power and all this data, yet we still have to tell our machines, word for word, what we want them to do?” That’s a tall order, but it’s not as tall as it would have been just a few years ago—before products like Twine, Automatic, and Nest Thermostat made the concept of thinking things accessible to the public.