These wireless earbuds are like mini computers for your ears that are as powerful as a 2010 laptop:
Doppler Labs wants to put a computer in your ear.
The New York-based company on Tuesday introduced the Here One, a more polished version of the Here Active Listening earbuds that raised $635,000 on Kickstarter last year — as well as $17 million in funding — and resulted in a waitlist that ran more than 100,000 customers deep. They’re up for pre-order today for $299, with a full release set for sometime this November.
For those not familiar with the original Here, the core concept behind the Here One remains the same: to augment and mold the sound of the world around you. Though they look like the kind of truly wireless earbuds we’ve seen from Samsung, Motorola, and others in recent months, they’re closer to in-ear processors — with internals that company CEO Noah Kraft says are “about as powerful as laptops from 5-10 years ago” — than traditional Bluetooth earphones.
So, if you’re walking down a city street, the idea is for you to lessen the sound of passing crowds and screeching cars, without shuttingeverything out the way a pair of noise-canceling headphones might. If you’re at a concert, you could boost the bass and add effects to what’s playing, similar to how you’d mess with the EQ settings for music on your phone.
The company claims that it’s fine-tuned this sort of selective noise filtering with the Here One, making it so you can amplify or cut out specific sounds — boosting the voice in an office, for instance, while drowning the air conditioner — instead of whole frequency ranges.
You need to keep the earbuds tied to their companion app to make all this work, but from there you can customize the filtering yourself, or choose from a number of preset settings made for specific scenarios (“Office,” “Airplane,” etc.). The hope is that you won't have to do that, though — Doppler Labs says the app will first put you through a two-minute "onboarding procedure" that lets the Here One automatically tune its filters to your ears.
While the original Here buds were intriguing as a concept, the fact that they couldn’t actually play music limited their appeal. The Here One canwork like any other pair of wireless in-ear headphones, which should greatly help their chances. Whether or not their sound will compare to other $300 earphones remains to be seen, though.
Still, Doppler Labs is adamant that the Here One’s noise processing puts the earbuds in their own category. Beyond the selective filtering noted above, the company says you’ll also be able to “layer” sounds over whatever you’re hearing.
Kraft gives the example of being at a baseball game and having real-time commentary draped over the top, or making it so you can hear cars while you’re streaming music on a bike ride. He says the company is working with “several partners” to expand upon this idea going forward.
The problem that might limit all of this is a familiar one: battery life. The company says the earbuds will get about 5-6 hours on average, with that going down to 3-4 through continuous streaming. The case that holds them doubles as a charger, and is said to provide two full charges.
In any case, it’s clear that Doppler Labs has put some thought into the idea of creating a wearable that people could feasibly use all day long. We’ll test the Here One in the fall to see if it lives up to that promise.