There are numerous solutions on the market for making hands-free calls, though they usually require jamming a small speaker in your ear. That's not always comfortable, especially since the vast majority of these devices aren't molded to your specific ear and are prone to wiggling free. They also tend to block out environmental sounds, lessening your awareness of your surroundings.
Buhel's "Soundglasses" solution is different in that it uses bone-conduction technology in place of earbuds or headphones to rattle your eardrums. That means there's nothing to stick in your ear holes — just a pair of stylish sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to don.
Bone conduction isn't a fancy term that Buhel invented to help market its Soundglasses. It's a real technology found on some hearing-aid devices and even a few existing headphones. These solutions typically use a special processor that picks up sound waves and turns them into vibrations, which are then sent through your skull bone to your inner ear. It's essentially an alternative path to your cochlea versus traveling down your ear canal to your middle ear and eardrum.
Buhel's Soundglasses use Bluetooth to communicate with mobile devices and other sound sources. With a touch of a button, you can activate Siri on your iPhone, Cortana on your Windows Phone device, or Google Now on your Android handset, along with other functions.
There's also a noise-cancelling microphone integrated into the bridge of the sunglasses, and a pair of bone-conduction Buhelvibe speakers, one in each arm.
While we have several questions about how well these various technologies work as implemented, Buhel's parent company Atellani has found an eager audience on Kickstarter. The company's already surpassed its $80,000 goal by more than $100,000 with 31 days to go, hitting two stretch goals in the process: One rewards backers with a hard case, and a second lets them choose their frame color and eight various add-ons. One add-on is a polarized lens, which is exclusive to Kickstarter backers.
Why this matters: Atellani is pushing safety as a major selling point, and with good reason. Wearing earbuds while jogging or driving can not only make you less aware of what's going on, it can be illegal — at least while driving. And for some, earbuds are simply uncomfortable.
Soundglasses transmit sound without obstructing your ear canal, so we can see where they'd be safer to use in certain situations. However, we also question how well everything works. Bone conduction is one of the reasons why you hear yourself differently than others do, and we wonder what effect that technology has on music.
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