Jamie Pauls interviews Mike Calvo and Buddy Brannan to talk about the Aftershokz Bone Conduction Wrap Around Headphones.
Buddy begins the discussion by saying that when these came out, around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show, he thought they would be great for blind people. The reason they are so interesting is that they don’t go in or over your ears. They are small speakers that sit right in front of your ears, and the sound gets transmitted through your cheekbones instead of going through the ear canal. The practical upshot is that there is nothing to keep you from hearing the sounds in your environment. The device is being marketed to joggers, but would benefit blind people as well. Specifically, this seems like it would be especially helpful for GPS applications. These include Smart Phone apps, as well as stand-alone GPS units like the Trekker Breeze and Kapten PLUS. If using Aftershokz with the Kapten Plus, you will need to purchase an adapter to connect the two.
Mike decided to play with these as well, and loves the fact that they deliver as promised. He walked his kids to school while using these, playing music softly in the background, and using a GPS application on the iPhone.
Buddy describes the fit. These are wrap around headphones, which means the band goes behind your neck instead of over the top of your head. Again, they sit in front of your ears. It’s a little disconcerting to hear the audio, along with background sounds.
Mike comments that the audio intersperses with the sounds in the environment, For example, if you are listening to audio of nature sounds, the audio will layer so that you think you are hearing a babbling brook in the distance in your actual space. This is similar to the augmented reality used by Google Maps which uses overlaying visual images. The Aftershokz allows for audio to overlap, like it does in some 3-dimensional audio games. This same 3-D option could be used in GPS applications to provide a more enriched, multi-layered experience.
Mike discusses the experience of listening to music with these headphones. What you’ll get from the standpoint of frequency response depends on the shape of your head. These are comparable to $30 or $40 headsets, and may not be most suitable for audiophiles. They are more for layering sound. How and where they sit on your head will depend on how much bass you will hear.
Buddy discusses charging, button placement, and various styles: The battery is tiny and lasts a long time. The specifications say it lasts 15 hours, but I’ve gotten at least that, if not more. It is charged via USB and takes about three hours for a full charge. There are two controls one for volume, and the other for control of the microphone. These buttons are fairly flat, and may take some practice to use easily. If you have audio playing at high volumes, others will hear it. The sound is similar to hearing a muffled Walkman that is being played loudly. Aftershokz come in three models. The sport model is the basic model, and sells for $59. The model with an in-line mic sells for $69, has noise cancellation, and works with many smart phones. Incidentally, it is easy to use Siri with this model. The final headset is designed for gamers, has a long cord and USB connectivity, and sells for $79.
Mike talks about the user experience, and why a gamer would want these particular headphones. The Aftershokz help them to maintain immersive audio of the game while still allowing them to chat with others playing that same game. Bone conduction technology was originally designed for soldiers who needed to listen to both their environment and radio communications, which is what gamers are essentially doing.
Mike explains the feeling of the overall experience: I would not use these if I wanted to tune out the world and blast my music. Since I got them, I have been using them to enhance my environment with an audio layer, and wear them for hours. Anyone who is visually impaired will find these extremely helpful. It’s one of the most incredible finds I’ve seen in years! For more information about these headphones, visit http://www.aftershockz.com.
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