- Audio equipment maker Bose is developing an "augmented audio platform" along with high-tech glasses to support it, the company announced at SXSW, according to CNet.
- Though not currently available for consumers, the glasses have straightforward features like music listening and mobile phone calls, but will also include sensors to track head motions that let wearers control their music selection, offer audio directions through a smartphone's GPS, translate a sign the wearer is reading or simulate sounds relevant to historic landmarks as wearers view them, CNet said. The company said the tech can be integrated with headphones, eyewear and helmets beyond the glasses it's prototyping.
- The consumer release date and price of the hardware wasn't announced, though Bose created a $50 million fund to support development of the technology. The Bose AR SDK and limited quantities of an updated version of the glasses will be available for developers and manufacturers this summer, per CNet.
Bose is taking a different approach to AR technology than the makers of smartphones and wearable tech like glasses that have a digital heads-up display projected onto the lens. The idea behind this device is to let wearers stay focused on their surroundings without having to switch their focus between a smartphone and the glasses. With its approach to augmented sound, the company is building on its expertise in audio while seeking to make it more responsive to a wearer's surroundings and valuable beyond simply snapping photos or overlaying digital images onto the real world through the lenses.
The company said the Bose AR tech could be used in industries and settings like tourism, letting wearers hear about historic events as they look at a landmark, learn more about artwork while visiting a museum or get turn-by-turn directions while walking through an airport without getting distracted looking down at a smartphone. Bose AR could perform other functions, like providing an audio translation of a sign in a foreign language, a weather report while looking at the sky or restaurant information while checking out a street. The emphasis is on enhancing the wearer's experience through audio while using visual technology to identify objects in their surroundings in a move to merge audio and visual tech and bring the combination into the everyday consumer world.
Of course, the glasses have their own drawbacks, such as styles that may not appeal to a broad audience and the need for significant content development to fix glitches and make them increasingly useful for people. While music is abundantly available to stream, content like restaurant details or narrated tourist information will require wider adoption of the Bose AR SDK by outside companies to incorporate more features into its platform. The company may face significant competition from other developers of wearable technology, such as Apple and Intel, with glasses that appear to focus more on visual AR.