Bose unveils gesture-controlled glasses that whisper sounds into your ear to create an augmented reality audio experience
A company known for its noise-cancelling headphones wants to create a pair of augmented reality glasses that’s focused around sound.
Bose is unveiling a pair of concept AR glasses at the South by Southwest conference in Austin this year that add an ‘audible layer of information and experiences’ to the world in front of you.
The unnamed device differs from other augmented reality wearables in that the wearer can control it with gestures and their voice.
The glasses are also equipped with a tiny, ‘wafer thin’ speaker that can relay information directly into the wearer’s ear without anyone around them listening in.
‘Unlike other augmented reality products and platforms, Bose AR doesn’t change what you see, but knows what you’re looking at — without an integrated lens or phone camera,’ Bose said in a statement.
‘And rather than superimposing visual objects on the real world, Bose AR adds an audible layer of information and experiences, making every day better, easier, more meaningful and more productive’
‘It allows simple head gestures, voice or a tap on the wearable to control content — replacing the need to swipe, type or tap on a touchscreen for the same commands,’ the company added.
Bose said the glasses connect to your phone via BlueTooth and are compatible with Apple’s Siri voice assistant or Google Assistant.
The glasses are designed to be slim and light, appearing similar to a regular pair of sunglasses, but ‘sound and function more like Bose headphones,’ the company said.
The technology core to the concept glasses is ‘Bose AR,’ the ultra-slim acoustics package developed for the platform.
It can be built into headphones, eyewear and helmets without compromising the existing functionality of those products.
The glasses also have motion sensors built in that are able to know which way you’re facing.
It also reads the GPS location from a smartphone, which is connected via BlueTooth.
The sensors send the motion and location data to a Bose AR-enabled app that aggregates information, sending real-time content back to the user’s ears ‘instantly,’ Bose explained.
Bose envisions a variety of applications for the glasses, ranging from travel to education and music.
For example, if someone is wearing the glasses while sightseeing, the device can simulate historic events at landmarks as you view them.
‘Voices and horses are heard charging in from your left, then passing right in front of you before riding off in the direction of their original route, fading as they go,’ Bose noted.
‘Or letting you listen to a renowned speech ‘pinned’ precisely to the famous person in a monument’s statue,’ they added.
The glasses could also inform a user which way to turn towards their departure gate at an airport.
Additionally, they could be used to translate a sign or tell someone the word or phrase for what they’re looking at in any language, which is similar to Google’s PixelBuds that can translate language in real-time.
Most of Bose’s claims about what its AR platform is capable of are unproven, at least for now, as the products are all in a prototype phase.
The products also haven’t been reviewed yet.
But the company seems like it’s working hard to get the technology ready, as Bose said its AR platform is open to developers and manufacturers.
It’s also already partnering with fitness app Strava, TripAdvisor, radio app TuneIn and Yelp for future applications.
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 justt 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.
What Companies are Working on Augmented Reality Glasses?
Bose joins a quickly growing list of tech firms that say they’re developing augmented reality eyeglasses.
The first company to enter the race was Google, which released the 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.
Since then, several companies have come out with their own products.
Secretive startup Magic Leap began working on a prototype several years ago, but finally debuted its ‘mixed reality’ smart glasses late last year.
Magic Leap says its AR glasses will ship in 2018 after a multi-year wait.
Tech company Vuzix, based in Rochester, New York, is launching its Vuzix Blade glasses later this year for about $1,300.
They use a tiny projector to show a virtual image in the top right hand corner of their lenses.
Wearers can connect to WiFi and read emails and other messages via the display, as well as use Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, to issue voice commands.
Amazon is also rumored to be working on its own AR glasses to be released sometime in the future.
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.