by John Samuel
In 2018, Bose – who is best known for its speakers and headphones – announced that they were getting into augmented reality, with the launch of Bose Frames. Bose has created a new category of wearable technology, calling its frames the first “audio augmented platform” and is the future of mobile sound. The frames are actually “audio augmented reality,” as one would expect from a speaker company. That means, even though Bose released a pair of AR glasses, there is no visual component – the objective target instead: create a more immersive audio experience.
The sunglasses are able to detect your location and which direction you are facing via a nine-axis head motion sensor in conjunction with the GPS of a tethered smartphone. The audio flows through speakers built into the temples of the sunglasses.
It took nearly nine months for the sunglasses to be released to the market, but I just got mine last month. During South by Southwest in Austin, Bose unveiled further innovations to the glasses, demonstrating a system in which the glasses will “Tell you what you’re seeing.” Colloquially dubbed Smart Audio Glasses by the general public, the new software updates shown off at SxSW promise to open the way for audio feedback about your surroundings. Looking at a building might tell you information about what is contained within – for example, restaurant ratings, reviews, or other contextual facts – while looking at a monument of a historic figure might begin reading a speech penned by them. The software kit for developers to begin harnessing these advances will be available this summer, and Bose has reached out to well-known companies like Yelp and TripAdvisor, ensuring these services will be available to consumers.
When I first heard about the sunglasses, I thought it could be a great tool for the blind community because it provides high quality sound without blocking out sound with an object like an earbud.
Since I rely on my ears to both navigate my phone and to walk around, it is important that I limit the things that may interfere with my hearing. So far, these glasses are awesome for solving this issue – not to mention, they also block out the sun – another great feature!
Although Bose did not set out to develop its Augmented Reality Sunglasses with the intention of providing a wearable piece of assistive technology for the disability community, this innovative new technology has been rapidly adopted by a young company that has been breaking barriers and forging a path forward for the visually impaired; Aira. Aira is a business formed in 2017 with the goal of providing trained remote assistance for its users, utilizing tools such as an AI-powered dashboard for agents and specialized smart glasses for users that provide an optimal view for employees to assist the visually impaired explorer. The integration with Bose Frames, which was announced at CSUN 2019, couples the best parts of Aira’s remote assistance technology with Bose’s augmented reality system. Users will be able to absorb feedback from agents while out in the world without having to worry about a headset. More importantly, agents will be able to leverage data from the glasses’ Inertial Measurement Unit (IMUs) to ascertain highly-accurate information about what direction a person is facing, which could be immensely helpful when providing mobility instructions.
What I am excited about is that like VoiceOver which is built in to my iPhone, the augmented reality features of the Bose sunglasses have the potential to improve access for people with disabilities, while delivering it in a beautiful design that everyone can appreciate.
Stay tuned for my thoughts and experience using the augmented reality functionality of the Bose sunglasses once it is available.