Bose Wants You to Listen Up for Augmented Reality

Perhaps it is true that if all you have is a hammer every problem you see looks like a nail. When you think of augmented reality (AR), you usually think of something like the poorly-received Google Glass where your phone or computer overlays imagery in your field of vision. Bose isn’t known for video, though, they are known for audio. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that their upcoming (January 2019) AR sunglasses won’t feature video overlays. Instead, the $200 sunglasses will tell you what you are looking at.

The thing hinges on your device knowing your approximate location and the glasses knowing their orientation due to an inertial measuring system. In other words, the glasses — combined with your smart device — know where you are and what you are looking at. Approximately. So at the museum, if you are looking at a piece of art, the glasses could tell you more information about it. There’s a video showing an early prototype from earlier this year, below.

Does this make sense? Hard to say. A picture is worth a thousand words, so there are clearly some limits to what you can do with only audio. In fact, we’d dare say that despite the marketing phrase “Bose AR Enabled” the glasses aren’t really AR at all. It is more “position-aware audio.”

Of course, if you want to use them to listen to tunes, they’ll do that too. But so will earbuds and those will probably be more private. In fact, we were a little surprised these are built into sunglasses.

According to Bose:

From a technology perspective, the platform consists of truly aware audio devices that allow you to enjoy your digital audio alongside your real-world environment, a robust collection of sensors that enable a new heads-up, hands-free user interface, and developer libraries that enable partners to create new audio experiences in areas such as music, gaming, fitness, travel, and communications.

Battery life is 12 hours for standby and 3.5 hours for actual use with a 2 hour recharge time. The glasses are lightweight, but still quite a bit heavier than a conventional pair of sunglasses.

Unless a killer app appears, this looks like a swing and a miss. Earphones without cups and an orientation sensor doesn’t strike us as the next big product category. Then again, we aren’t marketing gurus, so maybe this is what every kid wants in their stocking. Remember, there’s no camera so you aren’t going to, say, look at a resistor and hear its value whispered in your ear.

If these were $25 or even $50, they might be a gimmicky replacement for headphones. At $200 we think it is a hard sell. If you want to do real AR, there are open source designs. The software is straightforward enough. Do you want these? Why? You could build your own version pretty easily? If you did, what would you do with it? Tell us in the comments.

21 thoughts on “Bose Wants You to Listen Up for Augmented Reality

  1. Why is it that these people invent something so close to useful but not actually useful, now if they’d invent a pair of glasses that tell me what kind of mood my wife’s in I’d wear them permanently.

    1. You can make those yourself. Just take a regular pair of sunglasses and on the top of the frame tape a small label that says “BAD” on it. Just make sure to make her a pair too, so you need two BAD labels.

      Those might make good gag stocking stuffers if you changed out the labels to something funny/romantic etc.

      1. It’s Bose. The Apple of the audio world. It won’t be backwards compatible with anything. It will only work with a Bose network. It can only be charged with a Bose charger. And when technologies advance, it won’t be forward compatible with anything either.You will never find a schematic or a Bose support person who will tell you how to do anything other than how to plug it in and use it as it was intended by Bose. Bose knows best. just be satisfied and complacent in the knowledge that you have a Bose. Do not try to be creative. If you think you have a better way, you are only being foolish. Bose has researched your needs and has already anticipated all outcomes.

  2. 3.5 hours for actual use is the battery when it is brand new? A year or two later that probably drops a good bit but it’s already a fair bit short to begin with. I completely understand the advantage of it being wireless instead of plugged in but beyond that, it’s somewhat unclear if this feature alone is enough of a value add to make this interesting and worth purchasing.

    Build something with decent eye tracking and the ability to directly laser or otherwise convey AR type images in real time to the wearer’s eyes. Couple it with bone conduction audio and some decent software to tie it all together and have it all be wireless with all day battery life and you would really be on to something. Music, GPS, navigation, guided AR work, collaboration, etc.

  3. Not even bone conduction? I was hoping these would be cooler or more practical. I’m still waiting for affordable bone-conduction prescription glasses. Like $100 – 30% of that cost being the glasses, 70% being the headphones. Hopefully that would give audio quality good enough to replace earbuds all together.

    1. I’d rather get the wireless headphones for that. Possibly even with active noise cancelling, so i don’t hear the other visitors and get distracted from the high-end experience. Thank you.

  4. Sounds like the typical overhyped but useless high-tech gadget.

    If it had a camera and face detection, it could be a great help for people with face blindness, or for concierges in big hotels.

  5. How about binaural positional audio for a bog standard VR system? It drives me bonkers that the sounds in VR don’t eminate from their sources correctly. Work on THAT, Bose, and I might actually buy something from you for once.

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