Bose’s glasses, fitted with speakers and mics, let you hear details about landmarks around you or learn a foreign language
Audio company Bose announced a project it’s calling “Bose AR” at this year’s Southwest Film festival, and it showed off a pair of prototype 3D printed glasses that demonstrate what sound-based AR might look and feel like. The company plans to ship 10,000 of these glasses to developers and manufacturers this summer, with the intent of partnering with other eyewear companies. Bose, the company best known for its headphones and speakers, built the sunglasses to show what’s possible with its newly unveiled Bose AR Platform.
Bose AR devices combine data from embedded motion sensors, which they connect with your phone via Bluetooth. GPS detects the user’s location, and the nine-axis sensor will determine which direction the user is facing and moving. The Bose AR glasses speak information out loud to you using built-in speakers and you’re the only one who can hear it. App developers can tag locations to trigger specific audio cues, or they can just use the motion sensors as a head-based gesture control interface.
“Right now most of the news and excitement around AR seems to be on the visual side,” Santiago Carvajal, Bose’s director of consumer electronics research at strategy, tells me. “But we think there’s a really interesting application in audio. Imagine if we could present a layer on top of someone’s natural hearing … and give context.”
Bose isn’t the first company to enter this space, as Google released Google Glass in 2011. Google Glass, now referred to as Glass, has been changed from a consumer-facing product to an enterprise product, used by companies like Boeing. Magic Leap announced its ‘mixed reality’ smart glasses late last year, while tech company Vuzix is launching its Vuzix Blade glasses later this year. Additionally, Intel released its prototype smart glasses, the Vaunt, earlier this year. The glasses use retinal projection to put a tiny display on the wearer’s eyeball.
“The prototype sunglasses are completely ordinary-looking from the front. They bulk up on the side because of the built-in speakers, the motion sensors, and a touchpad. But they’re still very light, and Carvajal says that weight shouldn’t change much in a production version,” The Verge described. “Bose built a few simple apps for demonstration, with an augmented reality tour of the bars and restaurants along one Austin street. It worked like visual augmented reality, but with sound instead of a heads-up display: you look at a building and tap a touchpad on your temple, and they offer a sentence or two about what’s inside.”
John Gordon, vice president of consumer electronics at Bose, said the company wants to help consumers interact with their surroundings in new ways.
‘It’s not just the voice side,’ Gordon told Gizmodo. ‘It’s the voice and the head movements that now enable you to do something as transformative as swiping and scrolling on your smartphone. This is a whole new interaction pattern for a different type of interface,’ he added.
Bose has established a $50 million fund for Bose AR developers, and it lists 11 software partners already, including Yelp, TripAdvisor, TuneIN and fitness company Strava. Bose category business manager Santiago Carvajal mentioned companies like Ray-Ban and Warby Parker as potential hardware partners but says nobody is locked down yet. “We are in conversations with a number of wearable hardware manufacturers in the eyewear space,” he says. The price is still undetermined, and will obviously vary depending on who’s making the glasses, but the company will be sending out 10,000 pairs to developers and manufacturers this summer.