Bose has quietly launched a new set of around-the-neck earbuds called Hearphones that can apparently augment the sounds of the world around you, something first spotted by a user over at Hacker News. While the company is known for its active noise-cancellation technology, these new earbuds — which look an awful lot like the QuietControl 30s released earlier this year — take the idea to a new level, giving users the power to pick and choose what kinds of outside noises make it into the main audio mix. Hearphones users can also pick which direction those outside noises come from, with what appears to be specific emphasis on helping people hear voices better in crowded places.
A “Bose Hear” app was recently added to the App Store, and offers a little more detail about what Hearphones are capable of. You can turn the “world volume” up or down, and change the direction you’re hearing those sounds from. There are preset modes like “television,” “focused conversation,” “airplane,” “doctor’s office,” or “gym,” all of which presumably block out different sounds from different directions while letting in things like speech. A user manual was also recently submitted to the FCC. No pricing or availability can be found anywhere on Bose’s website or in the app.
Here’s some more from that app’s description:
“Innovative technologies amplify softer sounds, let you turn down the distractions in noisy environments and focus on what you want to hear—like a conversation across the table. You can also use them as controllable noise cancelling [sic] wireless headphones for your music or calls or just for quiet. Take control of the noise, and hear the world better.”
Bose is also careful to mention that the app is not compatible with the QC 30 earbuds.
This isn’t all that different from something like the Here One, a set of earbuds from startup Doppler Laps that is capable of streaming music while also modifying the sounds of the outside world. Other companies big and small are also playing with the idea of letting in sound from specific directions, or at the very least allowing outside audio to pass through headphones so that users don’t have to remove them in order to hear someone who’s speaking. But it’s an interesting move for Bose, and even more interesting that they haven’t done any sort of publicity around Hearphones.
Hearphones were first spotted on an event page on Bose’s website. There, Bose describes them as a product that lets users “control the sound around you with conversation-enhancing headphones.” The company is also apparently offering people the chance to try Hearphones for themselves. “You’re one of the select few invited to the Bose Corporate Center facilities to demo Bose Hearphones for yourself,” the site reads. “Join us, and discover how to hear the world better.”