Bragi has announced a new version of the Dash, the truly wireless earbuds that evolved from Kickstarter darling into a frustrating bleeding edge product. The new $329 set is called the Dash Pro, and while it’s functionally the same product as its predecessor, it has been reengineered to fix the original Dash’s biggest problems. The Dash Pro will offer improved Bluetooth performance, better audio and call quality, and five hours of battery life, according to Bragi.
“It’s an inside out redesign of everything,” Bragi CEO Nikolaj Hviid tells The Verge. “We’ve used the same chips because we know them very well, their flaws and their strengths. But we had to redesign the PCB, the components that go around it. It’s really been an extensive — it’s going to be about five or six years of work just going into the optimization of every single small detail.”
If Bragi really pulled it off, better Bluetooth performance could be enough to sell people on the Dash Pro. The original Dash was a fine product from a pure design perspective, but the Bluetooth connection between the earbuds and the phone was far too easy to disrupt, which ruined the overall experience. And while this was a problem with basically all truly wireless earbuds when the Dash first launched, the earbuds now have far more competent competition in Apple’s AirPods, Samsung’s IconX, the Doppler Labs Here One, and even Bragi’s dumber (but functionally better) Headphone earbuds.
The Dash Pro and the original Dash will also now be able to do real-time language translation, according to Bragi. The feature is part of Bragi OS 3.0, the third version of the operating system, and it leverages a new partnership with language translation app iTranslate.
The way it will work is that Dash or Dash Pro users can let a person speak into their phone’s microphone, and then the app will send the translated speech to the earbuds. The reverse is also possible, Bragi says — the Dash user can speak in one language, and the earbuds will grab that speech and relay it to the phone for an audible translation. It’s a very ambitious feature, but Hviid says “we’re very comfortable [with how well it works], otherwise we wouldn’t release it.”
Bragi’s new OS will be preinstalled on the Dash Pro, and it will be available to existing Dash users starting today. It also includes automatic activity recognition for fitness tracking, better sound quality, and the gesture-based UI that Bragi has been talking about since CES 2015, which lets users navigate through menus by moving their head.
Also being announced today is a “tailored” version of the Dash Pro, which will be custom-fit to a user’s ears. The tailored Dash Pro will cost $499, and included in that price is an appointment with an audiologist to have impressions made of a user’s ears.
Both sets of earbuds are available to order in the US and Canada starting today on Bragi’s website. Mercifully, the company is doing away with its typical (and typically delayed) preorder system — the Dash Pro will start shipping in two weeks, according to Bragi. It will also be available in Best Buy and Brookstone soon after. “The product is ready to go,” Hviid said.
Bragi also let loose at a launch event in New York City that it’s working on other products beyond earbuds. The Patch is a one-inch sensor that uses a mesh Bluetooth network to connect to the Dash and a user’s phone; it will launch later this year. The company hinted that it could be used to enhance the Dash’s fitness tracking, but also said that it will release an SDK to let developers dictate what other ways the Patch will be used.
Bragi also briefly showed off a slim pair of augmented reality glasses, though Hviid said the specs are just an “internal research project” at the moment. The glasses wirelessly connect to the Dash and borrow the earbuds to handle all the processing.
It’s all frankly a lot for a startup that has had trouble getting its first few products working and out the door. But Hviid is steely eyed when it comes to the ambitious direction he wants to take Bragi. “We’re talking about ambient computing, eye computing, and ear computing,” he says. “It’s a complete system, not just something in your ear.”