Vinci's standalone voice-controlled headphones put a mini-computer around your neck
Most headphones these days are designed to pair up with the central hub of our lives, the smartphone. But New York-based Vinci is looking to forge a more independent path for its latest headphones, which pack their own self-contained minicomputer with 3G, Wi-Fi, voice-control, and fitness tracking, all of which means they need no external smartphone to function.
Vinci 2.0 is the company's second attempt at a genuinely futuristic technology. We reviewed the first generation of headphones earlier in the year and, while impressed with the ambition, ultimately found them not quite ready for primetime, with many of their innovative features simply not working properly.
The new generation of Vinci is smaller, exponentially more stylish, and many of the device's earlier features have been reworked into a design much more effectively targeted at sports and fitness markets. The Vinci 2.0 headphones come with an inbuilt Quad-Core Cortex A7 CPU, 1 GB of RAM and 8, 16 or 32 GB of storage, while connectivity is provided by Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth. The headphones are essentially a tiny computer that can play music (either stored or streamed), take calls, respond to voice controls and track your fitness.
The Pro and Super models have active noise cancellation and the Super model incorporates a bone conduction microphone so voice controls can be recognized even when uttered in noisy environments. The primary voice control systems of the unit are managed by a custom AI developed by the company, but Amazon Alexa is also integrated for countless other voice-activated uses.
Inside the 86-g (3-0z) unit are over 10 built-in sensors, including accelerometer, gyrometer, compass, heart rate and GPS, allowing the headphones to function as a comprehensive fitness tracker without requiring you to cart around your smartphone while working out. The 600-mAh battery will last around eight hours when playing music stored on the inbuilt memory, or up to 40 hours when paired to a smartphone and used as conventional Bluetooth headphones. There's also a 1.1-inch OLED touchscreen display, but being located on the neckband you'll need to be a contortionist of the highest order to look at it when wearing the headphones.
They are undoubtedly an aggressively ambitious piece of technology, and perhaps the most compelling aspect is the surprisingly affordable cost. The Vinci 2.0 are currently launching through Kickstarter with an early-bird price of US$89. That's a good price for a decently performing set of sports Bluetooth headphones, let alone a pair with all the other features of the Vinci.
Much like the first generation of the Vinci, it's hard to imagine every feature working exactly as advertised, but if even half the advertised features are functional then this is still an impressive piece of tech that is genuinely trying something quite different. The company estimates shipping to begin by April 2018, which is a reasonable target, but as with all crowdfunding campaigns there are no guarantees.
Take a look at the Vinci 2.0 in the video below.