We've already heard about electronic earplugs that only block sound when loud noises occur, or that amplify human voices. Doppler Labs' Here Active Listening system, however, takes things a step further. Consisting of an app-controlled pair of wireless earbuds, it lets users filter out or enhance audio frequencies in real-world ambient sound before it reaches their ears.
First of all, why would anyone want to use the system? Well, imagine if you were sitting near a plane's engines on a long flight. Using Here, you could supposedly minimize the engine noise while still being able to hear what the person beside you was saying. The app also features presets for dealing with sounds such as crying babies, background chatter, subway trains and traffic.
Along with blocking sound, however, Here can also manipulate it. If you like your music with a lot of bass, for instance, you could use the app's equalizer to crank up the bass when listening to a band at a live venue – you could also enhance the vocals if they were getting lost on the band's mix board.
Alternately, during practice sessions, musicians could add effects such as reverb to hear what their instrument or voice would sound like as altered by the acoustics of a live venue.
While the iOS/Android app is used to control the system, the actual sound-processing is conducted by a microphone and digital signal processor in each earbud. Those buds communicate with the app via Bluetooth Low Energy, and deliver the altered sound with a delay of less than 30 milliseconds. They're each powered by a USB-rechargeable lithium-ion battery, that should be good for for to six hours of use
...and no, you can't also use them to listen to streaming music.
Here is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where a pledge of US$179 will currently get you a set of the earbuds – when and if they each production. The planned retail price is $249.