There's a huge opportunity for hearable makers to go beyond augmented sound and tricks like real-time translation, and actually improve the quality of life for people with hearing difficulties. It's what Doppler was trying to do before it came apart, and now Bragi is doing it with Project Ears.
Project Ears, which it announced at CES 2018, isn't a new device - yet. Rather, it's a partnership with Mimi Hearing Technologies that will work on hearing enhancements for users.
CES 2018: Trying out Bragi's Project Ears demo
One area Bragi wants to tackle in particular is tinnitus. CEO Nikolaj Hviid said this landed on Bragi's radar after it discovered some people were modifying the Dash for tinnitus relief. Now it wants to offer an FDA-approved solution, which is what Project Ears will try to achieve.
We saw Bragi signal a move in this direction when it partnered with Starkey Hearing Technologies for a custom-fit version of the Dash Pro. Bragi tells Wareable that it's working towards a device with Project Ears technology, but has made no commitment on whether this will actually come to market.
At the very least, it sounds like Bragi will create some sort of new software that could make its way to its existing devices. Bragi says Project Ears will have a hearing test that will let users create a unique "Earprint", which will then give user's personalized audio for different environments.
But Bragi itself says this is an "open-ended" project and it's not clear yet what the final result will be. Other options could be protecting your ears from loud noises or, like the Doppler Here One, offering intelligent sound filters. One thing that is definite, says Bragi, is that it will bring Mimi's personalization software to existing Dash devices for music enhancement.
But there's an open goal here for Bragi and other hearable companies. Before its demise, Doppler Labs worked with Senator Warren to push through the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 - a bill that received rare bipartisan support - which will allow stores to sell hearing aids. Signed by the president, it's now in a gestation period with the FDA which must create (and regulate) this new category of over-the-counter hearing aids to meet a certain level of quality and safety.
This will open the door for companies like Bragi to market their hearables as hearing aids, and it sounds like Bragi has every intention to take advantage of the opportunity.