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Doppler Labs' new augmented reality earbuds can also stream audio from your phone

Doppler Labs' new augmented reality earbuds can also stream audio from your phone


Fully capable, finally

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Doppler Labs

Doppler Labs has just announced a new version of the Here Active Listening System, the earbuds that let users augment the sounds of the outside world. The new earbuds, known as Here One, will now be able to stream audio from your smartphone over Bluetooth while also still being able to perform outside noise filtering. Doppler Labs will start taking preorders today for $299, and the earbuds will ship in November.

There are two big differences between Here One and Doppler’s last product. The first, and most significant, is that new audio streaming capability. Now you can use the Here earbuds to listen to local music on your phone, or from streaming apps, or take phone calls, or even talk to your phone’s digital assistant. Where Here Active Listening was a product that was purely focused on manipulating the audio around you — such as turning down the high frequencies at a rock concert — Here One will be a more complete experience, adding in the functionality found in truly wireless earbuds like the Bragi Dash or Samsung’s IconX.

But Here One is still going to be very much about letting you manipulate the sound of the world around you, like augmented reality for your ears. And the new earbuds are supposed to be much more proficient at this than the previous version. That extra power comes, in a big way, from some new hardware. Doppler Labs hasn’t changed the look of the earbuds too much, but inside each Here One earbud you’ll now find multiple multi-core processors — for comparison, each Here Active Listening System earbud used just a single processor. There are also multiple microphones in each earbud now, and more powerful batteries. However, Doppler Labs says users can expect the same three-to-four hour battery life that Here Active offered, since Here One will often be performing more computationally intense tasks.

Much more powerful hardware and software

This extra processing power allowed the team to overhaul what the earbuds were capable on the software side, too. Here One still features specific filters like "airplane" or "office," and you can still add effects like "echo" or "fuzz" to have some fun and distort the audio of the outside world. But you’re also going to be able to tune the earbuds to your own hearing when you start them up for the first time. Before, the Here Active Listening earbuds just used the same "zero decibel" baseline for every pair of earbuds. Now they'll be customized to the particular way each user hears the world — maybe their ears are bad at picking up high frequency noise, for example. Think of it like the difference between handing everyone a pair of reading glasses versus figuring out their actual prescription. Here One won't replace hearing aids, but you can certainly see the power of heading in that direction.

Another is what Doppler Labs is calling "adaptive filtering." Instead of only being able to turn specific frequencies up or down in the Here app, the Here Ones will also be able to smartly isolate certain types of noise in real time. For example, say a fire truck goes by, but you’ve only set the earbuds to filter out the low-frequency background noise so you can hear a friend’s voice. Instead of opening up the app and trying to hunt down the frequency of the siren, the Here Ones should be able to automatically isolate that sound.

"Before your ears can even recognize the siren, so faster than your own brain, it can recognize the siren and reduce that without adulterating the human speech," says Noah Kraft, Doppler Labs CEO.

That’s a pretty fantastic claim, and we’ll have to wait a few months to see just how good the Here Ones are at performing a difficult task like this. But the general idea behind Kraft’s statement is that Here One’s audio filtering is going to be much smarter this time around. That’s cool, because the original Here Active Listening System was already pretty impressive. It was a niche device, for sure, but the few times I brought it to concerts it worked as advertised — in one instance, at a small venue in Brooklyn, I was able to turn down the loud, overpowering drums so that I could actually hear the rest of the band.

With the ability to stream audio from your phone, Here One becomes a significantly more compelling product than Doppler Labs’ previous earbuds. And while there are earbuds like the Bragi Dash that allow you to bring ambient noise from the world around you into the earbud mix, they didn’t offer any fine-grained control. Here One has a chance to be the best of both worlds.

Doppler Labs’ Here wants to change how you hear the world