Hearables: They’re Wearables for Your Ears
Hear and Now
Wearable tech is moving off your wrist and into your ear. Hearables (wearables for your ear) might just be the best way to track your fitness, receive alerts, give voice commands, or even hear translations in real time.
A recent study found that wrists-worn trackers aren’t very reliable (although the Apple Watch was found to be the most accurate).
“All of the wrist technologies are looking at blood flow,” Dr. Gordon Blackburn, one of the study’s authors, told Time. “You need to have good contact between the photosensing cells; as a person is exercising more vigorously, there’s more bounce, so you may lose some of that contact.”
But ear-worn devices might be subject to fewer confounding variables, especially if they fit snugly in your ear.
While hearables are becoming more common, we can’t guarantee you won’t be questioned about what you’ve got stuck in your ear or be mistaken for a jerk wearing a Bluetooth device, which you pretty much will be.
Hearables are the future, but here are six you can buy today.
The Bragi Dash ($299) seems to have it all: the ability to store 1000 songs, a fitness and heart rate tracker, and a mic to breathlessly answer a call in the middle of your workout. The problem, the Verge and others report, is the Bluetooth connection is a bit wonky, so listening to music is problematic.
The Bragi Headphones, a more pared down option from the same company, are getting raves, though. With the Headphones ($149) you can stream music (seamlessly, it would seem), take or make a phone call, or access your phone’s digital assistant. The Verge’s Sean O’Kane wrote, the Bragi Headphones “give you a serious taste of the ‘wireless future’ that Bragi (and Apple) have been teasing, without the sacrifices and patience required by the Dash.”
Oakley Radar Pace
Intel and Oakley created the Radar Pace ($449), a sporty sunglass and hinged earbud combo. Wearers can ask, “How am I doing?” during a ride or run, and the voice activated coaching system offers pace monitoring as well as comparisons to past workouts. Users can also make calls and listen to music through the Radar Pace.
“When people run with a wrist watch and have to constantly look at the watch all the time, it’s sort of the opposite of what you try to preach as a coach,” Craig Alexander, an Oakley sponsored three-time Ironman world champion who now runs a coaching business told Sports Illustrated. “You want movement and things that project or propel the body forward in an efficient manner, and looking at your watch is really not one of them.”
Sony Xperia Ear
For Android users who want to get into the hearable game, there’s the Sony Xperia Ear. You can listen to and interact with voice assistants including Sony’s Xperia Agent or Google Voice to hear your schedule, the local weather, or personalized notifications. You can also dictate messages and use the Xperia Ear for navigation. The trouble with the Ear is the fit. Engadget and other outlets found it to be uncomfortable, particularly for extended use.
The fit hasn’t been a complaint with the Motorola Hint ($129), which was recently re-released with ear gels in four sizes offering a more secure fit and greater ability to lock in sound. The look of the Hint appeals to reviewers too. The earpiece is very small (0.97 x 0.70 x 0.74 in), and comes in various materials and colors like canvas, bamboo, walnut, and brown or black leather. Due to its diminutive size, though, the battery is small so there are only about 3 ½ hours of talk time.
The Here Active Listening Earbuds were released in 2015 and named one of the best inventions of the year by Time. These earbuds actively increase or decrease certain sounds. For example, you could increase the bass at a concert or decrease the sound of a baby crying on an airplane.
Due to limited supply, it was initially hard to get your hands on these earbuds. But now the creators, Doppler Labs, have come out with their first widely available hearable, the Here One, which will be shipping in March. You can use all those fancy “active listening” features, and you’ll also have the ability to listen to music, take calls, and access Siri and Google Now. In the future, the Here One might translate for you in real time, too.
Subtle, the Vinci is not. These headphones are large and obvious and include a touch screen over one ear that can play animations timed to your music. These active noise-canceling headphones can be voice or touch-screen controlled and can play music from their 32GB of storage or stream from Amazon, SoundCloud, or Spotify.
The Vinci also learns from your body and activity data and picks songs that match your pace, heart rate, and listening preferences. You can order now through Indiegogo. The Vinci (starting at $99) ships this spring.
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