San Francisco startup Doppler Labs' mission of putting a computer in every ear involves two challenges. The company must figure out how to use advanced audio processing, artificial intelligence, and other technologies to make the sounds people want to hear sound better, and to minimize the annoyance of the ones they could do without. And it needs to cram the necessary chips, antennas, microphones, speakers, batteries, and other componentry into earbuds that are stylish as well as functional.
By building computers into earbuds—and connecting them to smartphones and the internet—the Here One buds can perform a wide range of functions, with more on the way.
Listening to music. The Here One app lets you adjust the sound of live music to your preferences. It can also, through content partners, give users the audio equivalent of a backstage concert pass.
At a museum. Here One will be able to connect users with a partner museum’s audio guides and beacon technology to offer visitors location-specific insight into the art.
Watching sports. Here One’s ability to layer streaming audio on top of the sound that surrounds you in the real world will let it deliver commentary, statistics, and more while you’re at a sporting event.
On the road. Doppler’s technology can turn down the drone of airplanes and subways. Long-term, Doppler wants to be able to intelligently tweak what you hear using factors such as geolocation.
In conversation. The Here One earbuds will be able to help users focus on the audio of the people around them—useful for conversing at restaurants, bars, and loud clubs.
For Doppler, stuffing a powerful computing platform into two tiny earbuds required a variety of hardware and software engineering feats. Here are some of the highlights.
Earbuds. Each one contains circuitry with a multiprocessor, low-latency audio system, a high-fidelity speaker, three microphones, and a battery.
Storage case. The pocket-size Here One case doubles as a charger, providing up to an additional six hours of streaming.
App. Doppler’s smartphone app acts as a remote control, allowing users to adjust how they hear the sounds around them.
Connection. The buds use near-field magnetic induction technology to communicate with each other and stream content from apps on a user’s phone.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2016 issue of Fast Company magazine.