Between simple sound amplifiers and complex medically-prescribed hearing aids, there’s a wide space for hearing assistance devices. These devices can have different purposes including filtering unwanted sound, enabling phone conversations in noisy rooms or windy beaches, providing clear audio from streaming sources, amplifying speech, and even mixing audio tracks. Typically today we use separate headphones, headsets, earphones, or earbuds for each purpose.
Doppler Labs has set a high goal and standard in its development pursuit of multifunction, all-in-one assisted hearing devices. The company is clear and careful to assert they are not working on medical devices. (Think of the difference between “reading glasses” and prescription lenses.) Their focus is on augmenting personalized listening experiences in various settings for different purposes. Doppler Labs’ first product, Dubs, was a passive acoustic filter that reduced midrange frequencies. Their second product, Here Active Listening, was a limited run model that never went on sale to the public, but was distributed to various groups including Coachella attendees for feedback. Here Active Listening was a test bed for the first version of the product on which the company has focused all along. The first generation of Doppler Labs’ all-in-one, wireless listening system is called Here Now. The company is taking pre-orders for Here Now on their website with delivery scheduled for the 2016 holiday season.
Photographs of Here One look like images of Here Active Listening. Many of the listed features sound the same or similar, as well, which makes sense because the earlier system was a trial. Here One will come with a case containing two wireless earpieces. They’ll be available in black or white and, rather than go in the direction of medical products, which is to make ear appliances as close to invisible as possible, the Here Ones are quite large. Kinda techy and cool looking by deliberate intent. The ear pieces will sync with each other and with a mobile phone app (iOS or Android) via Bluetooth. The carrying case does double duty as a USB battery charger. Underscoring the point that Here One is a hearing assist product intended for special or specific occasions, they will only work for 3 to 5 hours on a charge.
When you first get them there’s an initialization in which the system tests your hearing and preferences. After the test, you’re ready to go. The Here One system promises to let you “stream music, take phone calls, reduce unwanted noise, amplify speech, access Siri and Google Now, and more.” In addition to presets for various environments and tasks, you’ll be able to layer listening tasks. Examples Doppler gives of simultaneous sound tasks are carrying on a private conversation in a noisy train, making a clear phone call on a busy street, riding a bike listening to music without blocking ambient sound, and listening to a live sports broadcast while attending the event in a packed stadium.
The magic will all happen within the earpieces which will process sound picked up by microphones. Choosing listening modes or presets and making any desired alterations will be done in the smartphone app.
Doppler Labs is promising quite lot with Here One, and when I asked about future models being called Here Two, Three, and so forth they didn’t confirm or deny. Doppler personnel were clear that they want to become the company that, just as Microsoft set out to “put a computer on every desk,” they want to put a computer in every ear with a growing array of assisted hearing features.