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Doppler Labs delays its futuristic augmented reality earbuds

Doppler Labs delays its futuristic augmented reality earbuds


Partnerships with the Mets, Cavaliers, and more will be waiting when they ship

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Doppler Labs

Audio startup Doppler Labs has delayed the shipment of Here One, the wireless earbuds that can stream music and also augment the sounds of the world around you. The earbuds were announced in June and were supposed to ship in November, but that date has now been pushed to February.

I got a short but impressive demo of the Here One in late October. The truly wireless earbuds seemed like they allow the perfect mix of streaming and the ability to let in (and modify) the audio of the world around you. But Doppler CEO Noah Kraft told The Verge that, while early Here One units haven’t shown any problems, the company still needs time to do what’s known as a “validation build.”

“We need to make sure that we can do this consistently across a mass market scale,” Kraft said. “And since we want to go to retail, and we want to do this right, I basically had to make the call.”

No problems, just a longer wait

That means breaking the news to customers who preordered (Kraft won’t say exactly how many just yet) Here One, and it also means missing the holiday window. Kraft said “there’s definitely frustration” in not shipping before the holidays, especially because the company was hoping to take advantage of Apple’s recent removal of the headphone jack on the iPhone. “If we were shipping right know I’d be doing a lot of high fives. There’s 47 million iPhone 7s shipping in Q4.”

When the Here Ones are ready to ship, they should have some interesting capabilities beyond the basic mixture of audio streaming and manipulation. Doppler Labs today also announced some key partnerships with various sports teams, museums, and organizations that should encourage some interesting use cases for the Here One’s AR capabilities.

One partnership is with the New York Philharmonic, which will work with Doppler Labs to provide “custom audio commentary” for Here One users that will be “layered perfectly over the performance.” The company has also struck a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Mets to enable “real-time, play-by-play sports commentary, scores, and stats” for users. Other partners include JetBlue, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Gimlet Media.

Doppler Labs is already working on AR experiences for Here One

Kraft says these partnerships go even deeper than what’s being shared now, and that more details will be shared in the coming months as Doppler works with each one to fine-tune the AR experience. The announcement post mentions using things like “beacon” technology as well, so it’s possible that some of these integrations will be dynamic — they could include content that changes as you move around the ballpark, for example. (Kraft hinted at some uses for this when we spoke in October.)

Kraft was quick to point out that the Here One is not the first audio product to be delayed. A wide number of startups have had to push the shipments of their wireless earbuds in the last few years. Even Apple is susceptible to delays — AirPods, which were announced at September’s iPhone 7 event, still have not shipped.

“We only get to launch this product once,” Kraft said. “We want Here One to be perceived as a game changer, and we know it can be.”