Wireless earphones put a microphone in your ear
Toward the end of last year, the first truly wireless earphones became available for consumers to buy and plug in. We were sent a pair of Earins to review and were impressed by both performance and build quality, though found them a little on the quiet side. Taking calls while using them was also a bit of a hassle, as they didn't feature a built-in microphone. The RippleBuds project supports hands-free calling with the inclusion of an in-ear microphone, while also promising increased play time.
The development of the Earin wireless earphones was inspired by the sight of actor Ryan Reynolds popping in a pair of cable-free buds during the opening sequence of the movie Definitely Maybe and going walkabout to the beat of "the other perfect song."
Though the first out of the Bluetooth starting blocks, similar projects soon followed. The bulbous-by-comparison Dash plugs (which are shown as available for purchase on the Bragi webstore) include an "an ear bone microphone" that facilitates bone conduction for speech, while the smaller Dot earphones (which moved from Kickstarter to Indiegogo and, at the time of writing, has yet to ship units to backers) is reported to include a microphone on both earbuds.
In development since 2012, and now the subject of over a hundred registered or pending patents in nine countries, the RippleBuds are said to be capable of capturing a user's actual voice while also minimizing background noise. The positioning of the custom condenser microphone just inside the ear canal is claimed to reduce ambient noise to a library quiet 30 dB, with patented technology also preventing echo and howling despite the speaker driver and microphone being close together.
The earphones will also come with five sizes of sweat-proof silicone tips, which are rippled (hence the name) to help reduce noise from the outside world and for a secure fit. The tips are also washable, which is probably just as well given the amount of ear wax those ridges are likely to trap.
Each 17.4 x 26.5 mm (0.6 x 1 in), 4.5 g (0.16 oz) capsule is expected to include a 55 mAh Li-ion battery for up to 5 hours of music playback or talktime between charges, though as with the Earins, the charging pod can be used to extend mobile music listening. The developers say that the charging case will offer three full top ups of both RippleBud capsules before its own battery needs charging.
The RippleBuds pair with a compatible smartphone or tablet over Bluetooth 4.1 for about 30 ft (10 m) of wireless range, and users will be able to take calls using voice commands for hands-free comms or flowing conversations with a smart digital assistant. Notifications will also be sent out if the RippleBuds get too far away from a paired smartphone, helping minimize accidental loss.
The RippleBuds will come in mono or stereo packages, though it won't be possible for users to listen to stereo music using two mono units. To get working prototype into production, the development team has turned to Kickstarter. At the time of writing, pledges for a mono RippleBud start at US$69, the stereo RippleBuds starting at $99. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in September.
The campaign pitch video outlining the project can be seen below.