German startup Bragi, have come a long way since their successful Kickstarter campaign, back in February 2014, gained support from 15,998 backers who pledged $3,390,551 to help bring their project to life. Three years and two generations of Bragi later, the hearable tech startup recently announced, in September 2017, the exciting news of integration of Alexa into the Bragi hearable Dash and Dash Pro.
For those not yet in the know, hearables, like Bragi’s Dash (pro), is wearable tech that we wear in our ears. Popular with early adopters, the hearable device is igniting a new era of convenience along within the context of the technology we wear. So why in the ear? Well, the ear has been proven to be a much better place to measure the wearer’s temperature accurately, heart-rate, calories burnt and other life saving key biometrics.
With so much taking place at Bragi HQ, I decided last month to meet the people behind the magic on their home turf in Munich. Located in city centre, the first impression I got, when I walked through their building was a feeling of being in a laboratory where the only thing missing was people in white lab coats. The first person I met from the Bragi team was Lorena Poy. She introduced me to Bragi’s executive VP of Partners & Solutions, Darko Dragicevic.
Bragi is Seeking The Use Cases Of The Future
Sitting down with Darko, I was ready to take it all in. We found a common ground in the importance of collaborations. On Bragi partnerships, Darko explained “Through our collaborations, we are always looking to explore new ways of working together through integrated partnerships with the goal to expand our ‘on-body-platform’. In doing this, we seek to create the use cases of the future”.
As our conversation progressed, I found myself in agreement with Darko on the role that collaborations can play when it comes to inventing the future. Moving on, I asked Darko how things are progressing regarding adding features and better user experience. “Being the first comes at a price.” Darko continued: “But things are looking perfect for us. As the wearable tech component industry is making parts that are made specifically for hearables now. Bragi should have further possibilities to create the envisioned, more versatile intelligent personal assistant, one that protects, enables and simply helps the user to do better. Within this context, we are also looking into reference design. Where we are open to exploring ways of adding licensing to our services.”
As Darko continued to make some interesting points, the hearable tech groupie in me wanted to find out a bit more about the vision behind Bragi, and it was at that moment that I met Nikolaj Hviid, CEO of Bragi. Talking to Nikolaj was like being given a snippet of how future technologies could change the world. “We believe that with hearables we have landed at the 4th generation platform of ambient and cognitive computing. Here at Bragi, we are looking to understand context. Contextual knowledge is the greatest thing missing while we measure all this interesting data. Our philosophy though is not to be just another data grabbing company; we are looking to let the data work for our users in the best way possible,” said Nikolaj. While talking data with Nikolaj, I shared that their approach might make things harder for them, especially when it comes to finding the right partners since not many (wearable) tech companies are too empathetic about what to do with the obtained biometrics. In my opinion, the overall consensus is, who measures it, owns it.
Talking hearables with Darko then Nikolaj at the Bragi HQ was quite informal, which I enjoyed. Next, I was introduced to the Head of sensor and data science department, Friedrich Furstner. Giving him a firm handshake, we dove right into the technical side of one of the world’s most intelligent earphone. He made some interesting points on the features of artificial intelligence personal assistants (AIPA). He explained, “AIPA create a complexity that makes it that we had to rethink our whole model. Integrating different suppliers, all of whom have various design flaws, when one needs these to work on such a small device creates a different kind of challenge. Besides a compelling AIPA, we also are looking to add features from augmented hearing to even quantifying stress related data. And then, do not forget all these contextual agents need to uphold a robust data privacy root set.”
Sharing the ins and out, Furstner’s thorough explanations brought Bragi to life. As our conversation came to an end, I was given a whisper of information on their collaboration with Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa. Already compatible with Siri and Google, Bragi’s partnership with Amazon taking us one step closer to offering contextual technology in the form of an artificially intelligent personal assistant. Sharing the bigger picture with me earlier, Nikolaj confessed, “We realised very quickly that to offer valuable contextual tech we need to expand away from just measuring at the ear. To offer the most compelling use case, we need to start sensing from as many (body) positions as possible. Think about AR glasses and patches on clothes even outside the body etc. We are working on something called the Patch that can be put everywhere on the body so to offer the best-added value, when and where a user needs it. We call this mesh sensing. Creating a mesh network that senses everything around us to make us the best we want to be when we choose to.”
We can look forward to Bragi and Amazon showing Alexa in a different light. It is a partnership that will bring a new world of possibilities through smart home, shopping, and home entertainment use cases. “We have always seen The Dash as an interactive device that improves one’s quality of life. Through Alexa, we are able to take this one step further, bringing smart home, e-commerce and home entertainment examples of how The Dash can be useful,” said Nikolaj. Jon Kirk, Director Amazon Alexa added, “Now customers with The Dash headphones can easily take Alexa with them on the go. Bragi’s intelligent headphones with Alexa will make it easy for customers to control their smart home, ask for news, and access more than 20,000 skills in the Alexa skills store.”
Now that the Smart assistant support is live, you can access Alexa on the Bragi Dash and Pro by downloading the BOS 3.1 Bragi Dash update, as well as updating the Bragi app and connecting to your Amazon account. Once you have updated your Bragi you can ask Alexa to schedule a meeting, check the score, order an Uber cab, play your favourite music, read an audiobook, or give you the weather forecast. Users of Amazon Alexa on The Dash will also be able to access several streaming audio options including their Amazon Music Library, Amazon Prime Music, Audible and TuneIn Radio.