Bose Announces augmented reality glasses with a focus on sound
Augmented reality is almost exclusively associated with vision, but it doesn’t have to be. Audio company Bose announced a project it’s calling “Bose AR” at this year’s SXSW festival, and it showed off a pair of prototype glasses that demonstrate what sound-based AR might look and feel like. The company plans to ship 10,000 of these glasses to developers and manufacturers this summer, with the intent of partnering with other eyewear companies.
Bose isn’t just working on one pair of glasses, either. The company has bigger ambitions for its audio AR as an entire platform for developers to build off, and to that end, the Bose is releasing a Bose AR SDK and setting up a $50 million fund to invest in companies that will build things with Bose AR.
For now, the company is showing off a pair of glasses with integrated headphones at SXSW (which will be available sometime this summer in limited amounts for developers and manufacturers), but Bose says that its AR platform can “be built into headphones, eyewear, helmets and more.” Bose AR isn’t just about audio, either. The devices will use sensors to track head motions for gesture controls and work with GPS from a paired smartphone to track location.
Bose AR devices combine data from embedded motion sensors with GPS information from your phone, which they connect with via Bluetooth. GPS detects where a user is, and the nine-axis sensor can determine which direction they’re looking and moving. Small, focused speakers pipe sound toward the wearer’s ears. I could hear audio from a few feet away at a very loud volume in an enclosed room, but the sound was totally self-contained when I went outside. App developers can tag locations to trigger specific audio cues, or they can just use the motion sensors as a head-based gesture control interface.
As for what kind of experiences audio-based augmented reality could offer? Bose has a couple of ideas. The company envisions having a Bose AR device reenact historical events or speeches from landmarks and statues as you visit them, or get audio directions to your gate when your GPS detects that you’ve arrived at the airport. The company also aspires to combine visual information with the Bose AR platform, too, so you could hear a translation of a sign you’re looking get, get a weather report when you look out your window, or hear the history of a painting in a museum.
The company wants to put Bose AR in as many kinds of devices as possible. A large display rack showed bike helmets, prescription glasses, and earbuds as examples of possible future products. It had two working AR-equipped devices at SXSW: a 3D-printed set of sunglasses and a modified version of its QuietComfort30 headphones, known provisionally as the QC3X. The glasses apparently last three to four hours on a charge, but Bose wants six to eight hours on a commercial version.
It seems that we’re still pretty far away from devices making their way into consumers’ hands (or rather, on consumers’ heads), but it’s certainly an interesting approach to augmented reality that plays to Bose’s strengths that’s completely different from most of the other AR products out there.