These New Headphones Are Essentially Wireless Tricorders

Wednesday, 05 October 2016 - 1:16PM
Technology
Gadgets
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 - 1:16PM
These New Headphones Are Essentially Wireless Tricorders
A lot of people have been making fun of the new AirBuds (sorry, AirPods) as well as Apple's decision to remove headphone jacks from their phones, but a new pair of headphones from a Seattle tech start-up called Human makes a good case for jumping to wireless: they've basically created ear-mounted tricorders.

Depending on which Star Trek series you watched, a tricorder looked like a tricked-out 8-track tape recorder or a bent scientific calculator. There were three kinds, respectively used for scouting, medical purposes, or engineering, and the name stood for TRI reCORDER, since they each had three functions: sensing, computing, and recording. While the communicator from Star Trek eventually inspired Martin Cooper to create the design for one of the first cell phones, the tricorder has been tougher to replicate. These headphones come pretty close.

Human Inc. was founded last year in Seattle, where it flew under the radar and began collecting funds from investors (about $6 million in total). This September, they debuted their flagship product, the Sound. Here's what it looks like on your ears:



And here's what both of the headphones look like together:



As you can see, they're shaped like human ears, with a flexible material around the edges that closes around the rims of your ears like a seal. Keen-eyed readers might notice there are no buttons—that's intentional. Wearers are meant to interact with the headphones (change songs, answer phone calls, etc.) by swiping on the devices themselves. They also turn off when the two cups are put together (they adhere to one another using magnets), and turn on when moved apart. According to Human, you can share the audio you're listening to with up to 20 other people and turn them into a combined loudspeaker by putting the earphones close to one another (apparently, back-to-back). The base model has about 12 hours of battery and comes with a charging station.

But the experimental features are where these things stop just looking futuristic and start being futuristic. Some pre-sales customers are beta-testing the Sound's ability to provide instant language translation, advanced biometric monitoring, and sleep tracking.

Wait, did they say instant language translation? Yes, they did.

So basically, these devices are combinations of Star Trek's tricorder and universal translator. And to mix sci-fi references, Human's promotional video looks less like Apple's new sizzle reel and more like an advertisement from an animated billboard from Blade Runner:



So have we essentially created the headgear Lobot had in Cloud City? Are we seeing the first of a new round of tech companies with vaguely philosophical names bent on augmenting and enhancing human perception? Are we going to be boldly going where no man has gone before (Elon Musk says Mars), equipped with ear-mounted biometric scanners and instant language translators? We'll let you decide (But the answer is yes).

For those who want to be part of the dystopian human-technological revolution, Human is currently running an IndieGoGo pre-order campaign for the headphones and offering perks to donors. They cheapest offering (sold out) is $170, while other pre-orders come in at $200 and $400.
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