Dash wireless earbud headset whispers entertainment, information into your ear

editors-choiceThe Premise. Headphones have come a long way since being a simple wire connecting two hard plastic cups covered in a thin foam. Ergonomic, performance, and technological advancements have slowly evolved the headphone to its current state, but at its best, it is still a device that has to rely on something else to function.

The Product. Bragi LLC’s The Dash Wireless In-Ear Headphones are the first smart earbuds out there. With no cables whatsoever, each pair of headphones inserts into each ear and can be gently pressed or swiped to control playlists, volume, or track fitness performance. The Dash can sync up to a phone for music playback or to take calls, but will also function on its own. However, as one might expect from the tiny size, battery life is limited with three  hours of playback on its battery life and  4 GB of non-expandable space to store music without using any other device. The fitness tracker can report heart rate, body temperature, distance, speed, and altitude among other things.

The Pitch. Designer Nikolaj Hviid introduces us to The Dash as his vision for the future of headphones. A series of clips shows us all the different features available and how seamlessly they work with or without the app. Afterwards, Olympic Triathlete Helle Frederiksen gives her endorsement for the headphones as a companion for fitness, and the design behind The Dash is explained. Pictures that accompany the campaign explain what each Dash comes with, all the specs and features, and what each reward tier includes. Bragi needs $260,000 to order plastic injection tools, develop prototypes, get certifications, and more.

The Perks. Shipping in November of this year, to get your hands on The Dash will cost $179, which is a $120 markdown from the suggested retail price. Developers who which to employ Dash headphone functionality with their app or who want to develop add-ons to the existing app will get a series of prototypes and access to the developer kit in July for $299.

The Potential. We’ve seen MP3 player headphones before, but the Dash is a miniature marvel. If Bragi delivers all of its promises on The Dash, this could be the template that all high-end headphones follow going forward. Fitness enthusiasts, business travelers, and tech junkies alike will want a pair, making the suddenly bulky-looking Bluetooth earpieces of the present obsolete.  While they appear sleek and simple, The Dash might find fast traction as the perfect companion to Google Glass.

Music Technology

Wily portable boombox releases an Android’s tablet’s inner voice

The Premise. It seems a week doesn’t go by without some company announcing a new portable speaker to tap into the rising tide of inexpensive smart devices such as Android tablets. Those devices today are often bridged using Bluetooth, but it might be more convenient to just have them merged into one.

The Product. The Auris Wily is basically a tablet with built-in sound, enabling it to easily access a wealth of popular audio sources such as Pandora, Spotify and Slacker as well as music stored on its internal flash memory and microSD card. It also has an HDMI connector so you can connect it to a TV and use it to stream video from Netflix, HBO Go or other sources. The curvy speaker even has a few other tricks up its sleeve such as being able to be used as a speakerphone or video chat terminal thanks to an integrated 2 MP front-facing camera. The Wily sports sleek, rounded, futuristic styling, similar to 60’s art-deco furniture; endearing, which is endearing in that tacky Jetsons sort of way. Available in red, white and black, it can also pump the volume thanks to its 90-decibel speakers.

The Pitch. The creators of the Wiley make their case with a video that features high production values, including an orchestral soundtrack and expensive digital transition effects. Detailed pictures of everything from production sketches to user-interface closeups are included and it runs through a detailed list of the products specs.

The Perks. Set to release in June 2014, the Auris Wily will cost early birds $169 for a model with 8 GB of on-board memory, and $188 for 16G. It will be available to backers for $189 for the 8 GB version and $208 for the 16 GB version.

The Potential. Although the Auris Wily logo bears a striking resemblance to that of the “Beats” franchise (Seriously, it looks like they just flipped it over) its design and concept stands out. The Wily comes on the heels of January’s announcement of Vizio’s portable smart audio system, which is heavier (8.8lbs for similar, 7-inch screen option) and has less bass response (60Hz). The Wily could be a fun poolside companion to backers who’d rather keep their smartphones out of the streaming chain this summer.


Cue Page Turner gives Bluetooth page flippers some sheet cred

The Premise. Musicians around the world have experienced frustration at having to stop playing their instrument in order to turn a pages of their sheet music. At best, it can result in momentary panic in terms of catching up to the continuation of a composition. At worst, there’s an avalanche of paper that must be frantically gathered. Tablets can clean up the mess, but they involve their own compromises — limited battery life, distracting screen glow, and generally a smaller size than the area of a standard music sheet.

The Product. Cue Page Turner is a mechanical page turner that turns the physical pages of sheet music while musicians are playing. The turning mechanism is controlled by a wireless foot pedal. Cue Page Turner also has a vacuum bottom that allows it to rest stably on a music stand or piano.

The Pitch. The Indiegogo campaign for the Cue Page Turner features a short video explaining the device as well as the reward tiers of the campaign. The rest tells how the idea for the product was born and how, after years on the back burner, it can finally be manufactured thanks to 3D printers. What the campaign lacks is a photo of Cue Page Turner itself. Rather, because it hasn’t actually been manufactured yet, the campaign only features digital mock-ups of what the page turner is supposed to look like.

The Perks. Supporters of Cue Page Turner giving $50 or more will receive the Cue Page Turner Lite which can hold 12 pages. Contributors giving $100 or more will receive the Original Cue Page Turner that holds 24. Higher backers in the $500 range will receive gold- or silver-plated Cue Page Tuners, which look more snazzy and tell the world, “I have a silver-plated Cue Page Turner.”

The Potential. There’s nary a performing musician who wouldn’t find the Cue Page Turner intriguing. Orchestras especially will continue to use sheet music for performances for the foreseeable future. So, while there are other products on the market that turn pages digitally, none are able to do so with physical paper. PageFlip and AirTurn, for example, both use wireless foot pedals to turn pages on a Mac, PC or iPad, but cannot be used with physical paper. At such an early stage, it’s difficult to justify shelling out in anticipation of the product because there are just too many questions, but demand could heat up with the next movement for this musicians’ aid.

Cell Phone Accessories Music

Sharebuds MX2 retract the cable, share the music

The Premise. Ever wanted to show a friend a video on your phone, or wanted to let them listen to a song? Most people just pop one of their earbuds out and hand it over — but this results in a diminished sound value and some questionable transfer of ear wax.

The Product. Sharebuds were inspired when the developers saw known-by-first-name celebs Oprah and Bono listening to a song on a Project(Red) iPod. Rather than rely on a simple — or not-so-simple — splitter, their solution combines two pairs of headphones on one cord — one to wear and one to share. The newest perk of the MX2 redesign is that both sets of earbuds are now retractable, which makes them more useful as daily wear headphones. Just tuck the extra pair away and go on your way, as you might hear Fleetwood Mac singing if I could share their song with you.

The Pitch. The video is not anything special. It doesn’t ever actually show how the product works, though. It just looks like two people wearing separate pairs of headphones. You have to scroll down the page to actually see a shot of the whole headphones set as well as a wide range of folks with different relationships — father and son, mother and daughter, couples Yes, you’re far more likely to share music with those you know than complete strangers. Also provided is a collage of audio sources — everything from Spotify to Netflix. Since Sharebuds don’t rely on any software, copy protection isn’t an issue. There are also quotes from a number of celebrities, including Tom Arnold, Selena Gomez, Hoobastank and Plato, although the last one probably wasn’t approved by his PR team. The project owners are also teasing a wireless version of the Sharebuds in a more traditional headphone design due in December 2014.

The Perks. The Sharebuds MX2 will be available in May 2014 at a price of $79, but the developers are doing something interesting to take advantage of the holiday giving season offering you to buy a special $50 gift card that can be redeemed for a pair at a discount. This could set a precedent in how project owners allow people to take advantage of gifting when their actual products are months away.

The Potential. It’s tough to say how good the Sharebuds’ audio quality is. Most people, while having many of the relationships featured in the campaign, don’t need to share headphones too often and retractable coils are prone to wear out. It might be useful to take the Sharebuds along if you know you’ll be traveling with a friend or loved one with whom you share music tastes. But if they bring their own buds, a splitter and a spare pair may do just as well.