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Why wearables will replace your smartphone

Mike Elgan | July 5, 2016
Smartphones are about to change completely, then fade away. Here comes the distributed, invisible user interface

These advanced audio tricks require high-performance processing, which takes place in the earbuds. For example, any sounds in the environment are "recorded," processed, then replayed either with or without modification, and this has to happen so fast that you can't detect the delay.

Doppler claims that its adaptive filtering technology doesn't just blindly remove specific frequencies, but instead listens to sounds in the environment, identifies the offending noise, then filters it out based on what it's "hearing." One implication of that is that if, say, a baby is crying to your left, and if you choose to filter out the crying, the filtering will be different in left and right earbuds to optimize the noise cancellation.

Hear One earbuds are promised for delivery by the end of November and can be pre-ordered now for $299.

Doppler Labs' Here One technology is one part of the earbud revolution.

Consider the $299 Bragi Dash earbud product. These earbuds are wireless and sync up with each other using near-field magnetic induction (NFMI) technology.

Bragi Dash earbuds are packed with potential. Each earbud contains 23 sensors, which will eventually be able to track heart rate, environmental factors and more. They have different controls on the left and right earbud, where you can control music and volume and also scroll through fitness options, such as starting and stopping the tracking feature for running. As you scroll through the options, a voice in your earbuds reads out the options and provides spoken feedback.

There's intelligence to them as well. For example, you don't turn them on. Simply putting them in your ears starts them up and connects them to your phone (after you've done an initial pairing) -- the earbuds recognize the movement of shoving earbuds into your ears and turn themselves on.

Like the Here One, the Bragi Dash devices let you separately control the volume of music and ambient noise. By turning off music and turning up ambient noise (called Transparency mode), you get super hearing.

The Here One and the Bragi Dash represent the future of earbuds -- loaded with intelligence, processing power and the ability to custom-tailor what you hear and what you don't.

So what does this have to do with the future of smartphones, you ask?

Where we're headed: The distributed smartphone interface

As great as these next-generation earbuds might seem to be, critics complain about them. We're told they're too expensive, that wireless devices are a hassle to charge and that Bluetooth earbuds and headphones can be less reliable than cabled versions.

All this naysaying reminds me of the widespread grousing about the usefulness and functionality of smartwatches and other wearables.


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