BARCELONA — While much of the hearing industry has been anticipating the official announcement of Samsung’s Earcle PSAP, or hearing aid, at this year’s 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC), instead it was Sony announcing Monday at the event that it was officially entering the hearable market with the launch of its new Xperia Ear device.
The Ear is part of the Xperia family of products that Sony is “re-imagining” as highly personalized and “intelligent products to enrich everyday life”, says the company.
So What Does Ear Do?
In one of several popular posts last year on the subject of hearables at Hearing Economics, Sony was mentioned among companies developing a hearable-type device:
Sony’s next-generation ultra-miniature Bluetooth modules, currently under development, will fit into small, inexpensive, user-controlled headsets “without the need for any other processor.” —Shifting Sands of Hearing Aids and Hearables, January 27, 2015
According to the company news release, the Ear is not being intended to act as a PSAP or amplification device, but rather is to be used as a virtual personal assistant, by audibly providing the end user with information such as the weather, schedule, etc. (as can be seen in the video below).
The device will respond to verbal commands, allowing the user to place calls, dictate messages, perform web searches and navigation tasks–all while operating hands-free.
While it was announced at this year’s MWC in Barcelona, the Ear will not actually be available for purchase until summer 2016, at a price that is yet to be announced.
Google Hearable: Coming Spring 2016?
Project Aura, the same secretive group that brought the world the much-hyped Google Glass, is reportedly now working on a hearable device (as well as an updated version of Glass). According to some reports, this new hearable device may be released as early as May as part of the company’s annual Google I/O developer’s conference.
Unlike most hearables that have been released to-date, Google’s proposed device is to be fully customized to the user’s ear, using 3D ear scanning technology developed by United Sciences, LLC:
“A wearable computer including an earpiece body manufactured from an image of a user’s ear, the image created from a three dimensional (‘3D’) optical scan of a user’s ear; one or more sensors configured to sense information regarding the user when the wearable computer is worn in the ear…”
Of course, offering a high quality custom fit could provide greater sound quality at lower volume levels, which might help prevent hearing loss after prolonged use.
According to Nick Sutrich at Android Headlines, the health tracking statistics should be more accurate with the custom ear-level device, because blood vessels in this area of the body are significantly easier to read. In addition, the level of security offered by only fitting your ear canal exactly would “provide a measure of security that no current generation wearable can possibly achieve.”