Technology has changed a lot over the past decade and today, gadgets that were once static, analog devices, completely reliant on input from other sources for data, have now become their own vibrant, multi-purpose devices that can do just about anything you want from them. And no, we aren’t talking about the Brewgenie Smart Coffee Maker (or maybe we are, really, you can make coffee from bed).
Bell Labs did it in 1947, replacing mechanical switches with the transistor. Apple did it in 2001 with the first release of the iPod, a device that expanded on the Sony Walkman and redefined how we listened to music. Compaq did it in 1983 when they launched the first portable computer.
Now, thanks to that redefinition, we now live in a world of digital, where Palm Pilots, mobile phones, video cameras, music players, and mini computers all rest inside of the same pocket sized device. But, is it enough? Today, that answer is no, and one company is stepping up to make that happen. Inspiro is trying to redefine another area of technology, headphones.
Sure, most of have at least one pair, some of us have several, and many of us have plenty of earbuds with wires so hopelessly tangled they could be mistaken for replicas of the flying spaghetti monster, but other than that, what’s so special about headphones.
Max Wu, the co-founder of Inspiro, was most likely thinking just that when he founded the startup in 2014. Headphones have remained remarkably static over the past 50 years, where other technologies have updated and evolved, the headphone remains much the same.
Sure, you can buy Bluetooth headphones with built in controls, and some of them are even pretty good, but these are the same devices you’re used to with a few added functions, nothing really new. More importantly, even Bluetooth headphones are facing slow adoption, as many fear poor connectivity and poorer sound quality (and in some cases their fears are justified).
So, how do you redefine headphones when you could just buy cheaper true wireless earbuds under $50 and be done with it?
Inspiro thinks they have an answer.
The Vinci headset features smart, over-ear headphones with a virtual assistant, microphone, and a touchscreen so that you can interact with it anyway you like. You can listen to audio, but you can also track your exercise and heart rate, track your location, use location services to call Uber, book restaurants, and provide GPS instructions, and read your text messages.
More importantly, Vinci handles all of this without a smartphone. With 16GB of on-board storage, a SIM card slot, and the ability to work with 4G networks, it basically allows you to switch everything on your phone (except pictures) onto your headset. This makes it easy to stream your digital subscriptions for podcasts, audiobooks (Audible), music (Spotify, Amazon, etc.) all straight to your headset without using your phone, or even bringing it with you.
Vinci features a Virtual assistant that claims to learn human behavior, so that ‘she’ adapts to your patterns. For example, she learns your average heart rate, learns when you get up, when you go to work, and when you go to the gym, so that she can offer suggestions, play the right music, or predict when you need to take a certain bus so that she can tell you when it’s delayed.
Vinci has a lot to offer no matter what you listen to:
- HiFi Audio
- 16-32GB storage
- Fitness Tracker
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Voice Control/Assistant ‘Vinci’
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 3D Sound Recording
- Audio Visualization
- Active Noise Cancelling
- Outside Mode (to allow you to hear noises around you while listening to music)
Do We Really Need Smart Headphones?
AI is on the rise, and it’s becoming more prominent in almost every technology. With Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Amazon’s push towards drone delivery, Google Home, and many other digital voice assistants, it’s clear that artificial assistance is the future of technology. Integrating it into headphones is a new step, but it is one that makes digital assistance available to a number of people who wouldn’t otherwise have it.
Vinci is an excellent solution for people at work, for people providing mobile services (such as Uber, courier services, etc.), joggers and cyclists, etc. and those who can’t or don’t necessarily want to have their phones with them all the time.
The built in 16GB of internal storage also ensures that users who don’t want a subscription and GPS don’t have to use it, you can just transfer music directly onto the device. With a SIM card, it allows you to completely leave your phone behind, anywhere where it’s convenient to have a pair of bulky headphones over your ears at all times.
Vinci is still in development, and it’s just surpassed its fundraising goal of $50,000 by nearly $850,000. That’s a big deal for a 2 year old startup that plans to launch in March. Vinci also isn’t overpriced. Standard Bluetooth headphones (Good ones like Jabra Revo) can cost you as much as $200 anyway, and Vinci’s smart wireless headphones are wireless as well. Plus, with no Bluetooth to interfere with the sound quality, live streaming without your phone, and the ability to accept and take calls straight from your headphones without actualling bringing your phone. And, even if you don’t want all of those fancy features, a 16Gb wireless music player integrated into your headphones is more than worth that on its own.
At the end of the day, most of us won’t be willing to discard our phones and the camera, Facebook notifications, and pictures that come with it, but in many situations, Vinci is incredibly convenient and useful. Even for drivers, Vinci is safer and more useful than a phone or even Bluetooth integrated into your car.