The very fact I'm standing in a room littered with IBM banners tells me that Bragi has something a little bit different to talk to me about. The makers of the original do-it-all hearable actually have a whole lot to reveal. The headline is that the startup is partnering with IBM to bring its AI-powered supercomputer tech to Bragi's hardware in order to help bring hearables into the workplace.
For current Bragi Dash owners, there's also a big software update to look forward to. Among other things this seeks to enhance Bluetooth connectivity, adds support for five different languages and brings on demand heart rate readings to the device.
The other big news is that it's also launching the Bragi Headphone, a set of truly wireless headphones that strips away the fitness tracking features of the Dash. Essentially, Bragi thought this was a good time to get the announcement out before a certain Apple event later in the week.
All in all, that's not a bad showing for a startup still made up of only 200 people which launched as a crowdfunding campaign in 2014. A sign of current progress? It has shipped 100,000 devices since February 2016.
Bragi has announced the Headphone, its second hearable that joins the Dash
Don't fear Dash owners, Bragi's decision to make a headphone without the smarts doesn't means its abandoning its first generation device.
"We see Bragi Dash as the fourth platform," Jarrod Jordan, Bragi's chief marketing officer told us. "The first is desktop, the laptop is second, smartphone third and the Dash is fourth. To have a discreet audio assistant in your ear versus having something like a chip in your body or a virtual reality headset allows you to do many of the things you do with a screen but can accomplish with just hearing or speaking."
Babel Fish and the future of smart audio
We're not going to see the fruits of IBM and Bragi's partnership in the near future. All we know for now is that it will aim to improve communication in the workplace, whether that's office or in industry we don't know the details yet. Bragi also has some interesting ideas on how the two could combine forces and create devices that could well have value outside the work arena too. One of these is real time translation, a futuristic function Waverly Labs' Pilot is trying to master.
"The reason why we're here at IFA is to see how IBM and Dash can improve international relations," Bragi's communication manager Jake Duhaime explained. "This is an open operating system and we are constantly updating the software. We can put the Bragi OS into other devices as well.
"What happens if you link up with Google Translate and I can hear you in English or someone can translate your voice into German. How much does that change things for international relations?
Despite hearable newcomers in the shape of tech heavyweights like Samsung, Bragi still believes it's at the forefront of the industry and the team is keen to remind me that this is more than just about a headphone that you listen to music on. It uses the same 'tiny computer in your ear' phrase that we've heard from fellow hearable startup Doppler Labs.
Another area where it believes its tiny computer could add value is in the growing audio social networking and gaming industry.
"I know there is big money being put into audio social networking in New York and Silicon Valley right now," Jordan told us. "They believe there is a real movement towards audio. I get it, it makes sense and it's not really been done. By 2020, audio will be the big fourth platform and I would like to see Bragi OS at the forefront of that."
First things first, improving the experience of its first product. Team Bragi acknowledges that Bluetooth connectivity and battery life remain things that people demand most from wireless headphones and it's focused on enhancing these features with software updates. It also believes companies are taking matters into their own hands to deal with the big connectivity issue. "Bluetooth is a great thing, but we believe Apple are working on their own version," Jordan explained.
"We have a lot of cool features in the works," he added. "We could release them now, but we are not sure if people want or need them. If we put them out there it could be confusing. Take something like air time [for skateboarders and skiiers], seeing how much time they are spending in the air. That may or may not matter to most users but we can start to add in as long as we get the demand for it.
What you will see is that we are starting to build what we call macros: gesture orientated movements to activate features. There's a whole lot of things our team is working on. This year you will see some more updates, and you will see more interfaces added. We will begin to really show the difference between the Dash and other devices in this space."
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