The first augmented reality earbuds get smarter this November
Earlier this year we reviewed a pair of smart earbuds that give you control over your ears' experience of the world, letting you do things like cancel out an airplane engine or make your boring trip to the store sound like an acid-laced interlude from The Dark Side of the Moon. Neat technology and wacky novelties aside, though, one thing Here Active Listening earbuds lacked was an obvious and immediate purpose for people who aren't regular concert-goers or hardcore techies. Doppler Labs is hoping to change that with its more consumer-friendly Here One.
Here One takes the live audio remixing principles of Here Active Listening – tiny processors inside each earbud altering real-world audio in real-time – while adding Bluetooth streaming from a paired smartphone, along with more targeted listening filters.
The addition of streaming Bluetooth audio should go a ways towards giving the wireless earbuds more of an "in" with consumers, rather than just niche early adopter circles. We've seen several truly wireless earbud products launch in the last year (perhaps most popularly, Earin), but Here One is the only one to combine traditional smartphone streaming with its unique brand of audio curation.
Things could get really interesting with Here One's new adaptive noise filters and cancellation, which build on the original's environmental fine-tuning. While Here Active Listening had manual EQ and preset filters for things like concert effects and canceling out airplane engines, more focused augmentation like targeting specific voices was above its pay grade. Doppler Labs says Here One can now zero in on human voices and crying babies – letting you choose to crank them up above the din (so you can hear your friend at a loud concert) or completely drown them out (shut up that baby on your next flight).
Here One can also combine the AR and Bluetooth modes, letting you, say, listen to Adele's latest album on your jog while still amplifying what's going on in your environment, so you'll know if a car is speeding up behind you. Another example from Doppler: layering sports play-by-play onto the ambient sounds of the stadium crowd as you sit in the stands.
The new model also adds a "personalized listening profile" setting that tries to tailor your audio experience to your exact hearing. Doppler Labs CEO/founder Noah Kraft describes it as taking "a snap shot of each of your ears and then [calibrating] the baselines settings of the device to account for the unique preferences and needs of your ears." It's basically a hearing profile foundation, on which to pile on the layers of augmentation.
If Here One is all it's cracked up to be, it sounds like a more mass-market-friendly follow-up to the enticing, but extremely niche, original Here Active Listening. Without any hands-on time, though, we're left to speculate about how the reality – including audio quality and the accuracy of the new filters – measures up to PR promises.
While Here One's potential is exciting, an upgrade announcement coming just several months after the first model launched means Here Active Listening will be obsolete less than a year after its release. Kraft tells us Here One is built on a new multi-CPU, mult-microphone architecture that's more advanced than Here Active Listening's model – and while the original will continue to be updated, it will never get the new product's Bluetooth streaming or enhanced filters. If you're buying the new model, cross your fingers that its life cycle lasts a bit longer than the last's.
Here One goes up for pre-order today for US$299 from the product page below. It's set to ship (and arrive at retail) this November.
For a refresher on Here One's predecessor, you can hit up our Here Active Listening review.
Product page: Doppler Labs