Hearables Hit the Market
The ear is winning attention in the wearables sector, with a slew of smart ear devices coming to market. These include enhanced Bluetooth earbuds (Sony’s upcoming Xperia Ear), dual activity monitors/music players (Samsung’s Gear IconX, Bragi’s Dash), multifunctional ‘in-ear computers’ (Doppler Labs’ Here One) and an instant-translation device (Waverly Labs’ Pilot). All work in tandem with mobile apps.
- Wireless Earbuds: Samsung’s Gear IconX and Bragi’s Dash, which both launched this year, play music and track activity and heart rate. To fine-tune the fit, Samsung customers get three sizes each of a ‘wingtip’ and ‘eartip’. German company Bragi, which launched Dash with the help of over $3m in Kickstarter funding, offers four silicone FitSleeves, which stretch over the black or white earpieces. Users of either device can tap or swipe touch-sensitive panels on the earbuds to control different functions.
Magnetic pins on Samsung’s blue, black or white earbuds clip into their eyeglasses-style plastic case, which is also a charger – LED lights signal when the earbuds are charged. Bragi’s metal case also doubles as a charger.
San Francisco-based Doppler Labs is planning a late 2016 release for its Here One earbuds, which can enhance hearing (reducing unwanted noise and amplifying speech), access smart assistants like Siri, and more. Here One’s black or white earbuds, which borrow from an Apple aesthetic, lack touch panels since they’re controlled by a mobile app. The earbuds come packaged in a matching black or white clamshell case.
With its Pilot earbud, New York-based Waverly Labs promises to achieve real-time translation by integrating machine translation and speech recognition technology. Due in May 2017, the comma-shaped earbuds – designed to “hug the curves of the ear without being obtrusive” – come in bright red, as well as black or white. Only one is needed for translation, but Waverly will sell them in pairs, so two people can engage in translated conversation, or a single user can listen to music.
- Corded Earbuds: US company LifeBEAM attaches black earbuds to a ‘hanging pendant’ that fits around the neck for its upcoming Vi, an ‘AI personal trainer’. Magnets in the earbuds can connect them, thereby freeing up the ears when the Vi isn’t in use. A recent Kickstarter campaign for the product raised $1.7m. See also Millennial Fitness Update.
At CES 2016, Fossil’s California-based fitness-tracking company Misfit announced its first hearable, the Specter: small magnetic earbuds are connected by a cord to a square plastic case that houses the tech necessities (a Bluetooth radio, accelerometer and battery). The user clips this casing to their clothing, and a set of control buttons are integrated into the cord. Misfit, known for its sleek design, has not yet specified a release date. See also CES 2016.