Bose's AR platform starts by focusing on sound, not visuals
A long list of companies are said to be working on augmented reality glasses right now, whether their interest has been confirmed (Magic Leap) or is still just rumored (Apple). Now high-fidelity audio hardware maker Bose has thrown its hat into the ring with an AR platform of its own.
To begin with at least, the focus of Bose AR is on audio rather than visuals. So thanks to the image recognition built into the camera inside the prototype AR glasses Bose has been showing off, you could walk down a street and hear music or speech related to what's in front of you.
Looking at a statue of a famous figure in a museum might bring up a speech by that person, or looking at a menu written in a foreign language could prompt a translation to be read out right into your ears. The platform only just got announced, so those are just examples, but you get the idea.
As part of the early version of its smart spectacles, Bose says it's developed a "wafer-thin acoustics package" designed to be carried on your face. As well as smart specs, the tech can be embedded inside headphones, helmets, and other kinds of eyewear, according to Bose. Head gestures, voice commands, and taps can be used to control inputs.
"It places audio in your surroundings, not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you rather than a tiny display," Bose's John Gordon said at the product unveiling. "It knows which way you're facing, and can instantly connect that place and time with endless possibilities for travel, learning, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have kept AR on the sidelines."
As far as any products hitting the market, we're still a way off, but Bose says its prototype glasses can work via Bluetooth to access calls, Siri, and Google Assistant on a connected smartphone. They're also built to keep audio private, so the rest of the world doesn't know you're listening to a running commentary on your museum tour.
By expanding the tech out to a whole platform, Bose is hoping to make it easier for other app developers and hardware makers to build products with this kind of audio AR inside. One given example is an app that could direct you to the right departure gate at an airport, all through audio commands spoken into your year.
Looking up to the sky could prompt a weather forecast to get read out, or you could nod your head to bring up a music playlist and skip between songs getting piped through a pair of smart specs like the prototype pair Bose has already shown off.
While you won't see anything with Bose AR built in appear for a while, it's an interesting take on the idea of augmented reality being primarily visual – it builds on Sony's smart Xperia Ear Duo earpiece, which can read out responses and useful information right into your ear. As always, third-party support will be crucial in getting this concept off the ground, and Bose has now started offering access to a select number of developers.