The number of companies that sell true wireless earbuds has exploded in the last year. B&O, Bose, Sony and Samsung all joined the craze Bragi started back in 2014. Thanks to a bill signed into law last year, some hearing aids and assistive audio devices will be available over-the-counter without the need for a prescription. Headphone companies are also using their tech to help people with hearing problems, especially those suffering from tinnitus.
More than two and half years before Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller "courageously" announced the Cupertino tech giant's take on the true wireless earbuds this past September, a small company in Munich had already planted the idea in people's heads: earbuds that are truly free of cords and dongles -- just two little nubs in your ear that play music. But when the Bragi Dash finally hit the market -- funded through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign -- in early 2016, reviewers were left in awe and disappointment. They gushed about the Dash's build quality and feel, but lamented that the audio connectivity was unstable. "Wireless earbuds are still an unfinished dream," declared Sean O'Kane at the Verge during his testing of the Dash. That was nine months ago -- basically half a lifetime in tech circles -- and the Dash today has improved its Bluetooth connectivity significantly.
Apple's AirPods might look weird to some, but not only are they dominating the market for totally-wireless headphones, according to research, they also might be a big driver of the use of voice-powered digital assistants. More than 900,000 totally-wireless headphone units were sold in the US since the start of the year, according to the NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service, and since launching in December, Apple's AirPods have accounted for 85 percent of those sales by value. Apple's wireless earbuds are powered by its W1 chip and use optical sensors and an accelerometer to detect when they're in the ear. Apple has packed a lot into the Bluetooth earbuds. For example, when the user is making a call or talking to the Siri personal assistant, an additional accelerometer works with beam-forming microphones to filter out background noise and focus on the sound of your voice.
Bragi announced the follow-up to its feature-packed activity tracking Dash wireless earbuds back in September. That product, known as the Headphone, was slated to ship in November, but after a short delay it's now available to everyone. The new $149 set of wireless in-ear headphones don't carry the same tracking abilities and hand gestures as its $300 predecessor, but don't let the lack of smarts fool you. This more affordable model is still a solid set of wireless earbuds. Bragi's Headphone is $10 cheaper than Apple's AirPods, which were also delayed before shipping in December.
It may sound like the fictional fish used to translate languages in'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', but a German startup has brought the Babel fish to life with earbuds. Called Dash Pro tailored by Starkey, these high-tech earbuds are capable of integrating with the iTranslate app, providing face-to-face conversational language translation in nearly 40 different languages. While wearing the custom earbuds, users simply activate the app and carry on a conversation that will be translated into their native tongue in real-time. Bragi has unveiled two new products to the family – The Dash Pro tailored by Starkey and The Dash Pro, which is a'reengineered sequel to The Dash that continues to press innovation forward,' the firm explained. The Dash Pro tailored by Starkey integrates with the iTranslate app, which will translate the conversations into the wearer's native tongue.