The Wareable Tech Awards are over. Sigh, phew, let's move on. Well - not quite. We wanted to delve a little deeper into why each winner won the Award. We've already covered off Wearable of the Year, Smartwatch of the Year, Fitness Tracker of the Year, VR Headset of the Year and VR Experience of the Year.
Now it's time to turn our attentions to our Hearable of the Year for 2016 - the Bragi Dash. Hearables have come a long way since 2015, but we're yet to use a perfect one. The Dash, a pair of completely wireless earbuds, offer music storage, touch controls, heart rate monitoring and dedicated tracking for running, cycling and swimming via 23 sensors.
We're not pretending there are no areas for improvement - Bluetooth pairing, the lack of voice control, the fact it's not a 24/7 health tracker. But it also gets a lot right. The Dash hooks up to both Apple Health and Google Fit, and Apple Watch support is on its way.
Throughout the year, Bragi has also sought to both address early user concerns and add fresh features - from on-demand heart rate to Shuffle for music, new languages and Touch Lock to prevent accidental interactions. If you buy a Dash, you're not stuck with a first-gen product, instead you own an evolving wearable.
Then there's the fact that Bragi really did get there first. It raised $3 million in 2014 and brought in-ear computing into the wearable conversation even before it shipped this spring. In our judging sessions, the phrase "the Oculus of hearables" came up for a reason.
Bigger companies like Samsung, Jabra and particularly Oakley and Intel with the Radar Pace (which was definitely in the mix) may have brought extra tech, design and ideas to the table. In some cases like the Jabra Sport Pulse Special Edition, they reviewed well too. But it was Bragi that came out with a bold product, delivered and stayed focused.
Bragi's latest product, the Headphone, doesn't quite meet our criteria for connected self tech but it is part of a trend of wireless earbuds that will help to make the form factor mainstream for smarter iterations. Bragi has plenty else to look forward to include its IBM Watson partnership which is looking at worker safety, biometric ID, guided instructions and notifications in the workplace.
Sony Xperia Ear is an excellent assistant
So, then, how to select our Highly Commended? Again, there were quite a lot of arguments representing different hearable visions. With the Sony Xperia Ear we have a compelling smart earbud that provides a high quality, reliable, voice controlled virtual assistant - something that is much more difficult than it sounds. Look out for a full Sony Xperia Ear review on the site very soon - it launches in November.
It points to a future where we're comfortable with a whole range of voice interactions, not simply biometric tracking and audio coaching. It's one that will include confirmed devices like the upcoming Here One from Doppler Labs and, we presume, at some point amped-up AirPods from Apple. Plus by the time the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards roll around, we will have language translating Pilot, AI coaching AI and some do-it-all Jabra buds.
What Bragi and Sony are doing represent the best of what we've seen so far in hearables. As something of a baby category of wearable tech, there's much more to come.
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