Move on from wearables, people and make way for hearables because ears are the new landscape of wearable tech. The wrist wearable bubble is about to burst and the attention of the makers has seemingly moved to a new organ. And now, the connected consumer wearable tech makes ears its runway.
So, after the likes of Nike’s FuelBand, Jawbone’s UP and Samsung Gear S, you have ear capturing the right fitness noises for you and track heart rate, Oxygen levels and body temperature. The Chief Technology Officer of Wifore Consulting and technology evangelist, Nick Hunn has confirmed that the hearable tech is growing exponentially and will be about the same size as of the entire wearable tech industry by the end of the year 2018.
In the wear arena, wrist has come to a point beyond saturation. You have fitness bands, smart watches and fitness band-cum-smart watch ala Acer Liquid Leap to tie on your wrist. The worn-out wrist was looking for a break, anyway.
The Hearables Segment: Ready to take off
With ear the latest to be connected to, the plethora of options opens up. Unlike wrist, ears do not move so often and the sensors are able to track fitness data with accuracy. Moreover, you can use them easily just the way you use your earphones as. Up till now, the segment is marked with proposed plans or introduction of wireless smart earbuds. Rocked with the mainstream entry of Samsung Gear Circle and Motorola’s The Hint, the earables want you to hear them out!
Intel also showed off prototype ear buds dubbed as Jarvis at CES, in January this year that utilized InvenSense sensors to detect mood and let you play music to enhance your mood. It is to be noted that InvenSense has partnered with Sonin, which manufactures sub-miniature hearing aid microphone. In return, InvenSense will let the latter use its MEMS technology. Dublin-based company, Zinc Software has come up with InnerBalance device that measures heart rate variability and biofeedback via a clip-on based on the same MEMS technology. Apple has also reported to file patent for hearables. Siri’s creator, Viv Labs, which was overtaken by Steve Jobs, is now spearheading the advanced-than-ever artificial intelligence, named as Viv. Viv will run on Speaktoit language platform, api.ai and allows the developers to design the tools around voice input.
Viv Labs’ founder Dag Kittlaus, Chris Brigham and Adam Cheyer has stated that Siri was just the preface of much complicated and longer AI story. The company wants the AI to become a part of everyday life and certainly, the future.
On the similar notes, Apple’s acquisition of Beats may also bring some interesting results in this segment. Meanwhile Intel has also collaborated with international rapper 50 cent to develop smart earbuds that will track user’s health and fitness metric.
German company Bragi raised more than $3.3 million on Kickstarter, much beyond the expectation for their debut hearable, Dash. Dash is touted as world’s first smart-in earphone and is an independent system that provides metric related to exercise sessions. According to Bragi’s CEO Nikolaj Hviid, it works like a computer that entertains you while recording your body movements, BP, breathing rate and heart rate. It processes the data and provides you with voice suggestions to optimize your workout.
About the same time in February, Huawei also introduced its wrist-to-earpiece Talkband at MWC. The Talkband is cross-platform and supports both Android and iOS platforms.
If we keep the hustle-bustle by the Tier-A makers aside, the under players of the segment were more than active too. Earin introduced music streaming and fitness sensors in the form of world’s smallest wireless earbuds, Soundhawk offered enhance clarity and OwnPhones brought custom fit-in-ear wireless earbuds. iRiver’s headsets use heartrate sensors to provide you heart rate metric via Valencell sensors. Well, the scope of hearables is not limited to just wireless earbuds. Canadian Company BioSensive Technologies has introduced connected earring that doubles up as a fashion accessory as well as a heart rate sensor and fitness tracker.
Intel has also plans to work on voice recognition technique and Google has already working on voice control that, if rumors are to be believed, is on its way to feature in its wearables.
Just too much noise or a meaningful conversation
The fitness and music streaming aspect of hearables has to go. Or otherwise, the hearable segment will be as saturated as wearables (fitness bands, smartwatches and smartglasses). The hearables has to grow beyond it and will have to offer interactive capabilities where audio input is used. Much like as in the movie, ‘Her’ in which the protagonist used earpiece to connect to the OS.
Hearing wearables are not obtrusive and do away with the wires. The auditory senses are less used and wireless hearables make up for it totally. Along with this, the makers would have to work on the price and battery life of it. After all, there is no point in taking the ‘wired’ charger of your wireless smart earbuds everywhere with you. Faster cloud processing also needs to be taken care of. And yes, we cannot just deny the fashion and stylized part of it. Since earbuds are something that is plugged in ears about most of time while we are exercising, commuting or trying to concentrate, they should be comfortable and look good on us!
It is clear that out of all the wearables, smart or not, earphones have quite a ubiquitous presence without making you discrete, unlike when you are wearing a Moto 360 or Jawbone fitness band. And this makes quite a solid case of hearables. The social acceptance on the part of hearables and their usability tells us that hearables are ‘hear’ to stay and ‘say’!