Bose is moving the boundaries of what Augmented Reality can do, or be. The audio company is working on a unique, sound-based Bose AR glasses that rather than displaying info on screen, provides audio AR cues about objects. This year’s SXSW featured a real-life demo of Bose AR that captures its utility fully.
It’s the new kid in AR block – audio AR. We have become so accustomed to consider AR the visual platform, but, as Bose shows us, audio works just as well bordering on better. The Bose AR glasses prototype shown at SXSW festival combines directional sensor data with GPS, and via small speakers direct the AR information into user’s hearing faculty. Bose is very ambitious about the project, planning to offload 10,000 units to developers as early as the summer.
Bose AR glasses are best utilized to provide audio cues when pointing them at tagged locations. The sound volume seems just about right; the cues are clear without sounding strange. Besides sounding, they look and feel natural, look like something you would want to wear in public.
The audio company is serious about their craft and have already secured $50 million for the developers. While these investors indeed are high-profile, the real money is with the hardware developers, Ray-Ban for instance, who will jump in to deliver the actual consumer product.
‘We are in conversation with a number of wearable hardware manufacturers in the eyewear space’
says Santiago Carvajal from Bose. What the actual product will be however, is still unclear. Bose is bent on glasses due to their social acceptance, being around for ages. But the company aren’t too picky as to where their technology ends up, be it earbuds, helmets, or whatever. But. eyewear is, as Bose AR glasses demonstrate, anatomically rather convenient for this type of audio technology.
And Bose went lengths to demonstrate this. We are presented with two demos, both equally successful. The first is an audio AR take on cafe and restaurant references in a street. Looking at it, you could hear everything there is about that particular building. The feeling is one of having a personal guide whisper the relevant info in your ear, gentle and unassuming. The other demonstration is more high-tech in its nature but less in its practice. Bose Smart Glasses allow for gesture control, which lets users handle things as volume or playlist change by looking at different directions. The two combined give a rather rounded presentation of what Bose’s Audio AR tech is all about.
The potential is there, as we have seen, but what will become of it is a whole another topic. Bose denied the talks of self-branded device, meaning that they are in only as tech providers for future partners. When something like Bose AR Glasses appears on the market, it will probably be less expensive than visual AR glasses, equally useful, and perhaps more immersive. We’ll all agree that Focals are great, but the price tag not so much. Audio AR might be the solution to spreading the tech, at least until the price of AR displays drops significantly.