Imagine navigating a crowded event space and trying to carry on a conversation with an important client. You nod and smile, barely hearing what the person is saying. You make a joke, attempting to introduce some levity into the conversation when everyone freezes. You discover, to your horror, that your V.I.P.-client was remarking about the recent death of a loved one and you just made an off-color joke. If only you could have turned down the volume in the room so you could better hear the conversation.
Soon, you'll be able to do that and much more thanks to Doppler Labs $299 Here One Wireless system, an all-in-one listening solution that's, according to co-founder and CEO Noah Kraft, "redefining what in-ear tech is,"placing several processors, some mics and speakers into your ears in a barely-there form factor. Dubbed as "the future of in-ear computing", the $299 Here Ones are available for pre-order for this holiday and offer a host of compelling features.
The Here Ones are the next evolution of Doppler Labs' conceptual Here Active Listening, a set of wireless earbuds that have the ability to filter out sound at the listener's discretion. After compiling feedback from early adopters, Doppler took the information and applied it to the Ones. Described as "a smart hearing system" by Kraft, these buds will allow listeners to control the audio in previously unheard of ways.
As expected, the buds will do the perfunctory streaming music and take calls via Bluetooth. You'll also have the ability to access the connected device's digital assistant such as Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. In addition, the earbuds offer its layered listening technology. Sort of like augmented reality for your ears, layered listening filters in different audio sources creating a blended audio experience.
Imagine for example, going to watch a baseball game trying to listen to your favorite sportscasters commentate. Somewhere along the line, you're going to miss out on a funny quip when someone hits a homer because of the roar of the crowd. With layered listening enabled, you can turn down the volume on the crowd and layer the show on top, augmenting your sports experience. You can adjust the crowd volume at any time thanks to Here's built-in equalizer and volume control.
This is a much different experience from buds with ambient noise flow. In those cases, the in-ears have openings that allow the outside world in with no way to buffer or control the volume, which ultimately affects how you hear your music or podcast.
When I tried out the Here Actives at SXSW, what really got my attention were the adaptive noise filters and amplification technology. In practice, Doppler's proprietary filters work to identify sounds such as noisy crowds or police sirens and give you the ability to amplify or reduce them. For me, that meant canceling out a noisy convention show floor and carving out my oasis of quiet.
When the Here Ones debut, they'll be outfitted with an improved version of the filters, allowing for even better sound prioritization. According to co-founder and CEO Noah Kraft, Ones can better distinguish between different sounds link a siren and a person speaking allowing the technology to target and reduce the blaring noise, without affecting your soft-speaking friend's voice while you are walking down a busy street.
The Here Ones also feature directional mics that are better focused in speaking scenarios. In a crowded restaurant, the in-ear system will have the ability to figure out who's speaking at the table as opposed to the voices coming from other areas in the space.
As awesome as the hardware is, none of this would be possible without the accompanying free app. Available for Android and iOS, the software lets you customize your listening preferences Even cooler, you can optimize live music with the "tune in" presets. Additionally, the Here buds will help create a personalized listening profile as they learn your preferences.
At the end of the day, hearing will be believing when it comes to the Here Ones. But if they can do anywhere near what the Here Actives did, the future of audio is going to be about much more than how well a product can stream music and from how far. "You're going to see hundreds of wireless headphones over the next 12 months," Kraft said, "that doesn't interest us. We want to be the first company to put a computer in your ear. We're focused on hearing."
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.