In the past decade, the rate in which technology has developed has been undoubtedly groundbreaking. However, there’s one component that’s been neglected: hearing. The ear—a fascinating piece of engineering that allows us to communicate with the world for safety, security, and pleasure—processes many sounds every second. Imagine being able to tune in and fully in control your live listening experience, no matter the situation or environment.
Enter Doppler Labs’ Here Active Listening. Through two wireless ear buds and a simple smartphone app, individuals are able to instantly choose how they hear not only audio but the world around them. Want to boost the bass while at your favorite show? Maybe you’re hoping to mix things up with a bit of reverb? Or maybe you work in an open office space set up and want to lessen the chatter? Here promises to enhance your auditory experiences like never before.
Having started as a Kickstarter project last year and raising over $635,000, Here has gone on to earn a number of titles like TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2015, FastCo’s Most Innovative Music Company’s of 2016, and Best in Show at SXSW 2016, as the first in-ear audio system that lets you instantly personalize your live audio environment through?EQ, volume control?and effects for?your ear.
VIBE had the opportunity to experience Here Active Listening during our recent visit to Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where we spoke to CEO and co-founder Noah Kraft, who filled us in on the exciting future of their advanced audio technology.
VIBE: So, I just finished testing out Here during DJ Mustard’s set and it was the dopest thing ever. How did the idea of optimizing the sounds we hear introduce itself?
Noah Kraft: I’m a musician so music is at my core. Our company, Doppler Labs, actually started off with advanced earplugs called Dubs. We were partners with Coachella last year and we tested them out. We realized that an earplug is cool but it’s pretty binary. You can only turn off the world. So, we thought, look, if you can actually create tech—although in the beginning we didn’t know if it was possible—that gives people a full range of control, you can actually do a lot. And one thing we forget is that our ears are really powerful. They’re on 24 hours a day. Not to mention, nearly every other part of our body we curate. You can wear sunglasses if it’s too bright. You put on a sweater it it’s too cold. And if somethings not spicy enough, you use hot sauce. Our ears are just on and we don’t do anything for them. There’s only earplugs, which are rudimentary at this point. We wanted to give people something that’s much more dynamic, that adds some flavor to their experiences so that they can truly appreciate tuning deeper into music and actively listening.
When will these hit the market?
We’re going to try and go mainstream by the end of the year. This is kind of a last testing ground for us. We did this awesome partnership with Coachella because this product isn’t for sale just yet, and we’re using it to really see what works and what doesn’t. When you’re creating technology that’s never existed before you’ve got to get it right. And also, there’s a whole social component to this, too. If you create good tech that no one wants to wear, then you’re Google Glass, right? [Laughs] Well, what we wanted to do is say this product not only has to work well, but people have to wear it proudly. We want it to almost be like jewelry and that’s tough. So, we made it really sleek and simple said let’s try it out at places like Coachella and see if people really wear them. Do people like the white version or the black version? Do people want colors? Do they like the form factor? Because as much as this is about getting people to know about the product and the technology, it’s about creating what caters to the consumer. It all takes steps and we’re trying to figure all of that out.
Here features various audio tools that allow you to turn down certain frequencies during different scenarios (reducing the subway’s noisy commute with “City Mode”). Why expand from live music experiences to live environments?
It started with music but then we started to realize that we were creating tools that are really specific to noise. Any place that there’s loud noise or sounds, we decided to apply the same technology to, from commuting to open offices. The number one reason people join our wait list is for Open Office because in work spaces as such there can definitely be a little TMI going on. And I mean, you could put on a pair of Beats headphone, sometimes without the music, just to not hear things. However, what we’re saying is that you don’t have to tune out the world, you may just want to bring it down a little. We’re just at the beginning of this project, but it’s really fun to see how this technology can work. Once we can target things specifically, which we’ve already started to do, basically, you should never hear noise again. If you don’t like that ticking, take it out. If you don’t like that screech, take it out. If you don’t want to hear the baby, take it out. Or if you want to hear more of something, boost it up.
Are there any other features you’re looking forward to seeing come to fruition in the future?
We’re testing this really cool sci-fi-like real time translation. You could land at a foreign airport and start talking to someone in their native language. That would be crazy, right? But recently we’ve been working on other things like DJ mode. Imagine you put in your ear buds and the DJ can curate your ears by adding reverb or taking it away. So, those sort of things are coming in the near future that we think are really fun and people will enjoy. But long-term, we want to do some really groundbreaking stuff.