Many shades of cool. A closer look at the Bose AR-enabled sunglasses

Image: Bose
Alex Stockwell

Bose AR-enabled sunglasses pave the way for an era of always-on augmented reality

At SXSW, audio powerhouse Bose announced that they have created a pair of augmented reality-enabled sunglasses, and although the tech is still in it’s infancy, it could bring about a whole new way for AR to be implemented.

Unlike Google Glass or Intel’s Vaunt glasses, where AR consists of text or images being projected into the user’s field of vision, the concept behind the Bose AR glasses involves using sound that reacts to what the wearer is looking at.

So, imagine having details of your surroundings spoken to you as you walk along, or potentially, a real-time translation of a foreign sign or menu. And as this tech becomes improved and eventually married with your more typical visual-based AR, it could revolutionize how we interact with the world.

Supposedly, Bose could have done this with just a pair of headphones, but by opting for some super-cool sunglasses, (and mercifully borrowing absolutely nothing from the designers of Google Glass), the company has opened up the platform for a new direction in wearable tech.

Bose want to change how we hear the world around us

In a blog post outlining Bose’s new tech, the company explains how it want to make experiencing the world around you “more valuable, more emotional and more meaningful.” To do this they envision users of their new tech to be fed information about their surroundings directly into their ears.

The glasses – with built-in GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope and other technology – will know exactly which way you’re facing, allowing for apps to give you details about what you’re seeing.

So if you’re walking the streets of any given city, for example, and you spot some new piece of bizarre contemporary art, your sunglasses could immediately chime in to provide some much needed context.

Users can interact with the Bose AR sunglasses with gesture commands such as navigating menus or changing volume by simply nodding their heads, and the company wants to put Bose AR to use in as many ways as possible.

At SXSW, Bose displayed racks of bike helmets, prescription glasses, and earbuds that could potentially be equipped with their tech. And they also showed off a modified version of their QuietComfort30 headphones, known provisionally as the QC3X.

For now, the glasses won’t be available to consumers; just to developers and manufacturers. But this may obviously change once others find interesting new uses for the kit.

Over to you. Bose hopes developers can unlock the potential

All things considered, the usefulness of Bose AR-enabled sunglasses completely depends of what other developers and manufacturers can do with the tech. To that end, and to help inspire the startup community to begin work on the new platform, Bose have committed a cool $50 million to invest in companies that can create apps, services and technologies relating to their AR platform.

The company has also released an SDK to make things easier for others to start exploring the technology, and Bose has already signed up partners with Aaptiv, Strave, TripAdvisor, and Yelp.

It’s fair to say that the technology would ideally complement a visual display, but as an aside, for visually impaired people, this kind of audio-based AR has the potential to completely change their lives. Potential hazards, points of interest, or other people could be brought to life for those with limited vision, and offer an entirely new world.

The tech is a long way off yet, with no definite consumer release in sight, but it’s encouraging to know that AR has been given a new avenue to explore. And at the very least Bose have created a pair of AR glasses that don’t look completely ridiculous.

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