Skip to main content

Smart headphones with voice recognition could help you miss fewer conversations

Smart headphones with voice recognition could help you miss fewer conversations


A new idea from a new company

Share this story


Companies have been gunning to make the best pair of wireless earbuds for a few years now, and now some of them have moved on to trying to become the smartest. Doppler Labs is working on earbuds that augment the sounds of the world around you, while Apple is clearly hoping to bring Siri to your ear with AirPods. The idea of a discreet, in-ear technology that connects you to the internet’s endless well of information is clearly a powerful one.

Of course, bigger, bulkier headphones would give you the room to do more without so many sacrifices. It’s like working with a full canvas versus trying to paint a masterpiece on the back of a sticky note. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that a new company called Stages is pulling back the curtain on a pair of over the-ear headphones that blend a few of the most exciting ideas about aural augmented reality.

The headphones, called The Hero, are over-the-ear cans that let you do some basic digital trickery with the audio, like customizing the sound and creating listening profiles. The headphones also have a microphone array that not only helps with noise cancellation, but drives the ability to selectively hear noise from the world around you. It can let in all outside audio, and it can also let you select the direction you want to hear that audio from. An accelerometer and gyroscope will keep that noise in place as you spin your head around, too.

Keywords and even familiar voices can trigger the audio passthrough

But the really fantastic idea that Stages has cooked up goes one step deeper. The company claims that the headphones can be trained to recognize keywords and, eventually, voices — the benefit being that if the headphones pick up a familiar word or speech pattern, they can automatically flip on the ambient noise so that you don’t miss the conversation. If someone behind you says “excuse me,” or your name, the headphones will just activate the audio passthrough, therefore reducing the chance that you don’t realize someone is speaking to you.

Letting in outside audio isn’t a new idea — it’s the foundation that Doppler Labs’ Here One earbuds are built on, and it’s a feature that’s included in the Bragi Dash and some of its competition. And at some point, pulling your headphones down around your neck to hear someone or something isn’t actually an inconvenience. But it’s the situations where you don’t realize that someone is speaking to you where this idea could be useful. (VR, anyone?)

Stages claims to have taken advantage of the larger canvas to bring this idea of ambient noise technology to the next level. The company is also short on specifics right now — we don’t know things like pricing or battery life, two pretty big omissions. We’ll find out how close the company gets to those claims, what sorts of problems they might encounter, and how useful this idea is in the first place, when Stages shows off The Hero at CES next month.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 36 minutes ago Not just you

Emma Roth36 minutes ago
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.

Emma RothAn hour ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.

External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.