Way back in 2015, we predicted that, soon our wearables will become hearables. This was something that we believed would be an inevitable reality. “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, hearables are slowly but surely finding their way into the wearable tech market”, explained Mano ten Napel in the article. “Hearable technology’s growth will ignite a new era of convenience along with a new era of fashion within the context of the technology we wear” he added.
Challenging The Hearables Space
Introducing consumers to connected devices for your ears, the hearables market is making its presence known with the help of startups like Bragi, Doppler Labs, My Manu and Jabra. Driven by opportunities, thanks to the rise of consumer preference for portable and wearable devices, the hearable space has also been facing challenges that have led to certain restraints. According to Scalar Market Research, the technological evolution has failed to deliver high-quality audio in real time is one of the major hindering growth factors. Currently, there is a delay in coding; bandwidth constraint, as well as bit errors that affect the wireless audio transfer.
On the current problems faced by the hearables market, Nick Hunn, an expert this field, shared in his report, “There are some basics which have caused problems, the first of which is having two separate earbuds. The brain is remarkably sensitive to the arrival time of sound at both ears. If left and right signals lose synchronisation by more than around 30 μsecs the effect is disturbing. Current Bluetooth specifications don’t support this degree of time synchronisation (future ones will), so vendors need to work out a way to manage this. Adding sensors is problematic. Although the ear is a good site, sensors work best when in intimate contact with the ear, which impinges on the mechanical design and wearing comfort. They also eat into the power budget. It’s telling that Bragi believe that removing most of their sensors from their second hearable may result in a doubling of the battery life.”
Technology Meeting Growing Demand
When it comes to the future of hearables, a factor that is playing a role is the growing demand for applications of health monitoring and hearing aids. Lindsey Banks, of EveryDayHearing.com wrote, “Another factor playing a role in the future of hearables is the growing demand for applications of health monitoring and hearing aids. First, hearing aid companies are beginning to recognize that users want a device that does more than correct and amplify sound. They want to be able to sync seamlessly with wireless devices such as their smartphone, for telephone calls, music, games, and more.”
So why in the ear? Well the ear has been proven to be a much better place to accurately measure the wearer’s temperature, heart-rate, the amount of calories burnt and other life saving key biometrics. Also, when it comes to putting tech in our ears, it all begun with the classical earbuds that came with our FM Walkman. Since then, I think its safe to assume that these ubiquitous devices have paved the way for today’s earbuds. Hearables also have the advantage of being more familiar, which means that when it comes to user experience of the product, consumers will not need to change their behavior in order to enjoy the benefits that hearable technology can provide.
So will fashion play a key role? The simple answer is yes it will. It has the power to offer great potential, especially when it comes to the design of hearables. With the chip industry having announced that there will be more processing power per square millimeter soon, we can look forward to key features fitting nicely into our ears. This could mean more freedom for designers to make hearables look more fashionable whilst paving the way for the creation of a device that can make a positive fashion statement. Now I am not sure whether I would live to see the day that piercing a hole in the ear will be a thing of the past but I do not challenge the idea that it wont be long now before we no longer need to pierce a hole in our ear because the hearable tech devices will be our earrings of tomorrow.
As the market currently stands, Scalar Market Research reports that the key players in the hearable devices market include, Apple, Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sony Corporation, Gn Store Nord A/S, Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. Kg, Harman International Industries, Incorporated, Voxx International Corporation, William Demant Holdings A/S and Bose Corporation.