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Awesome Stuff: Earbuds Are So Last Decade

from the moving-on... dept

If you're of a certain age, you'll remember what the headphones for the original walkmen looked like. Of course, nowadays they look pretty dated. How long will it be until today's earbuds face the same fate? Today's awesome stuff post looks at three crowdfunding projects that look at rather different ways to get sound into your head.
  • Okay, this first one isn't just about the sound, but it's the sound part that stands out. Ever since the Pebble smartwatch became the most successful Kickstarter project ever, a number of other smartwatches have popped up on Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and some other crowdfunding platforms as well. I got one of the original Pebbles, and it's really made me rethink the watch as a computing device/accessory to a smartphone. I'd stopped wearing watches years ago, but the Pebble has actually made my phone much more useful, and I already realize that we're only seeing the very, very early stages of what can be done with smartwatches. In fact, many of the crowdfunded watches that have followed have raised the bar with cool new features. The latest, the HOT Watch, takes things to a new level: with a bizarre speaker/projection system built into the watchband that lets you cup your hand over your ear and use your hand as if it were a phone. This picture shows how it works:
    The little thing sticking out of the watchband projects the sound up, and (they claim) it's just like holding a regular phone conversation -- private to you so others can't hear it. The video also demonstrates how it works, though I'd imagine some people might question the quality.
    The smartwatch itself has some other cool features, including multitouch screen, gesture commands and a variety of other stuff. Basically, if it's been in another smartwatch, it's in this one too. Of course, if you thought that people looked goofy talking on those tiny bluetooth headsets, I'd imagine that you might think holding your empty hand up to your ear might look fairly goofy as well. Also, I'd imagine that this won't suffice as a "handsfree" option while driving, though it might confuse the hell out of police if they pull you over. Either way, this project shot past its initial goal very quickly and still has about a month left.
  • Next up, we've got the Sound Band, which is designed to be a direct replacement for today's earbuds, but without putting anything in or over your ears. Instead, it uses surface sound technology, touching your head right behind your ears, to make it work. The contraption hangs over the top of your ears, but wraps around the back of your head with the actual surface sound touch part hiding behind your ears. Basically, if you see someone wearing it from head on, you probably won't even notice that they're wearing a form of headphones. The benefits of this are that you can still hear other stuff out of your ears -- which can be a real problem with earbuds that shut off all the sound around you. Of course, there are some situations where people like using earbuds or headphones to block out all other sounds, but you could see areas where this would be cool. Though, again like the project above, there are elements about using this where people might look at you like a crazy person because it will look like you're talking to yourself with nothing in your ear. Also, from behind your head, it definitely has a fairly dorky look to it, with a giant rectangle dangling on your neck. Still, I'm guessing many people might just think you've got hearing problems and have a hearing aid.
    The project hasn't quite reached its goal of $175,000, but it's not that far away, and still has well over a month left, so will almost definitely surpass the goal.
  • And, finally, we've got the Syphon Soundwrap. It is what it says, basically. It's a "wrap" that acts as a sort of headphone, without having to use earbuds. The target market is people involved in action sports -- so you would put this wrap inside a helmet or a hat while you ride a motorcycle, a bike or go snowboarding or something -- and be able to listen to your music, without having to have earbuds sticking in the whole time (which can start to hurt if you wear them too long).
    These guys had a much more modest goal of $20,000, and are already just a bit over it with about a week and a half left to go. The market may be a lot smaller and more targeted than the general use market, but it seems that within that market, there's pretty good interest.
And that's it this week. Go spend some quality time with your earbuds, because they might soon be a thing of the past.

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  • identicon
    Jim L, 3 Aug 2013 @ 11:50am

    What goes around...

    Many years ago, in the 80's, I had a DAK Bone-Phone. It was only a radio (I think), but the sound got to your ears through your bones. Worked really well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Not every ear can use earbuds. If I put them in my ears, they fall out. when I bought one cell phone, with built-in MP3 playet, I had to toss out the earbuds and get a normal pair of earphones, becuase the earbuds kept falling out my ears. Some ears just cannot hold earbuds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 3 Aug 2013 @ 10:13pm

    "Coming soon, it's The Sound Band! Now you too can be mistaken for a Secret Service agent!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Aug 2013 @ 1:24am

    I remember hooking a small pair of ear bud type headphones to a fairly powerful home stereo and turning the volume up as loud as it would go and it didn't seem to damage them. maybe I'm wrong but they sounded exactly the same as far as I could tell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Aug 2013 @ 3:54am

    The sound band is simply awesome just for the fact you don't need anything covering your ears. If you want a noise-free experience you just need to use some auricular protectors (like those you use to avoid water from entering when you go swimming or those you use on industries to avoid damage from the noise from the machinery).

    I'd go one step further though, I'd try to add noise canceling. Another nice accessory would be microphones that got the audio directly from the vibrations your voice produce. Too futuristic?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      wizard7926, 5 Aug 2013 @ 7:54am


      Well, they do have throat mics - it's basically the same idea as bone-conduction headphones, but uses the vibrations of the throat to transmit voice, even in a whisper. Used by SEALs and the like, in stealth or in high-decibel areas.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vlada, 10 Oct 2013 @ 6:49am

    I still really like earbuds :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    micro ear piece, 25 Feb 2015 @ 2:24am

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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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