Innovation

Earables: The next big thing

As wearables does its best to change the landscape of mobile technology, there will soon be a new type of technology to usurp wrist-worn technology.

The Bragi Dash Bluetooth headphones.
Image: Bragi

When you think of Mobility in 2015, you cannot avoid the topic of wearables. When wearables first hit the scene there was plenty of doubt surrounding their viability. That was then, this is now. Since the arrival of the latest iterations of Android Wear and the Apple watch, wearables have solidified their place in the mobility landscape.

However, as with all things technology, evolution and innovation happen at the speed of thought. And so, a new form of mobility is about to explode on the market—one I call "earables". What are "earables"? Simply put, wearables worn in-ear that serve specific purposes.

The first bit of technology that brought this wonderful new sub-section of wearables to my attention was The Dash, by Bragi. Here you have a pair of bluetooth headphones that promise to not only cut the cable between you and your mobile device (you can store and play music directly from the headphones), but monitor your health (even get vital warnings), stream from your phone, make calls with your phone, and more. But it goes much farther than isolating you from the environment. In fact, with The Dash you can choose to channel ambient sounds into the device so you can hear everything around you (making it safer to use while cycling, running, etc).

The next piece of "earable" technology to cross my path was KUAI—the world's first multi sport biometric headphones that combines a heart rate monitor, foot pod, sport watch, music headset and virtual coach allowing you to train smarter and safer.

Next came something completely different. The Hear Active Listening System, by Doppler Labs, does something no other technology has pulled off—it filters and fine tunes what you hear to perfectly meet your needs. Say, for example, you're at a concert and the bass is so overpowering you cannot hear anything else. This new system (which includes a pair of ear buds and a smart phone app) will make adjustments to that sound before it reaches your inner ear. Hear what you want, when you want, how you want.

I'm sure there are even more new bits of technology that will plug into our aural canal to enrich our lives in way we didn't even know needed enriching.

For anyone that leads an active lifestyle, and want to enhance the experience, this is the direction we need to be heading in—not devices worn on the wrist or in the pocket, but in the ear. As someone who does happen to lead a very active lifestyle, the idea of not only cutting the cable to a device (while active), but fine-tuning your experience with the world around you, and keeping you connected to your health opens up some seriously remarkable possibilities.

The progression from desktop, to laptop, to smartphone, to wearable has been thrilling (to say the least). For some, however, it's this next progression that can help bring technology into a space that it has had serious trouble navigating. My experience with the Jaybird bluetooth headphones was so bad, it made me wonder if the active lifestyle and bluetooth technology actually can live together. Thankfully, there are many companies out there attempting to bridge that very gap. The first company that does so, and does so with a level of reliability yet unseen, will find themselves with a massive hit on their hands.

The landscape of technology is changing faster than it ever has. And as we march forward into "earables" it'll only be a matter of time before we're working with Fringe-like ear cuffs for communication. To me, that is how important this next phase of wearable technology is. It's not just about enabling athletes to listen to music and monitor their heart rate without a cable, it's about enriching life in ways we'd never before dreamed.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about products like The Dash. This is not just the next evolution in wearables, it's a company that truly knows its audience and stands to deliver something special.

Earables may sound like an odd term, but they are coming. When they do, you can bet the landscape of technology (and maybe even society) will shift.

What do you think? Is "earables" the next big thing?

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About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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