Back when 3D TV came to market, I predicted it would fail because people didn’t like to wear glasses and the glasses you needed for the TVs had no other use. The best glasses were electronic and used technology that could have been adopted to create automatic sunglasses that reliably and instantly reacted to ambient light. I argued, had that been done, and a critical number of people bought the glasses, we’d have the foundation for 3D TV success. But, it didn’t happen, and it wasn’t a success.
Earbuds, particularly during the pandemic, have less utility for music and phone calls, but they still could enhance hearing. If they did enhance hearing, these earbuds could evolve to become something people wear like they wear watches because they make listening easier on top of working better with phone calls and listening to music.
That is what Qualcomm is promoting with their new QCC305x Bluetooth solution for audio. Let’s explore the future of earbuds this week.
The Emergence Of Cybernetics
One of the technology advancements we’ve been anticipating for some time is cybernetics, or the merger of humans and technology to provide people with enhanced capabilities. The two areas that have been at the forefront of this move are audio technology and optical technology. With optical technology, we’ve had head-mounted night vision goggles used by the military in use for decades. For audio technology, we’ve had both hearing aids and enhanced shooting headphones that block loud noises but enhance quiet sounds in the market for about the same time.
But neither of these efforts advanced beyond military and shooting enthusiasts and certainly never made it mainstream. We are next year, going to see Smart Glasses emerge. Still, they will likely repeat the past mistakes and focus on providing digital information and won’t yet improve eyesight, suggesting they won’t be mainstream on the next cycle either. However, earbuds will transition into more of a prosthetic/cybernetic model with the release of the Qualcomm QCC305x Bluetooth solution.
Gaining Super Hearing
I mentioned the active noise cancellation earmuffs used by shooters, but I didn’t mention I’ve been using a set designed for the military and law enforcement since I was a Sheriff. What made these handy is that they effectively blocked a shot’s noise, which can be defined while amplifying the ambient sounds around you directionally. The result was I could hear better than others when competing in combat or police simulations while preserving my hearing when needing to take a shot.
Earbuds based on the Qualcomm solution should be able to reduce the need for hearing aids. Products based on the Qualcomm solution should improve ear protection from loud noises and amplify targeted environment sounds to hear better the things you want to hear. If you go to a club or concert, you’ll be able to hear what you want to hear better while blocking the noise that makes it hard to hear now.
These earbuds will also be able to do things like more accurately measure your temperature and listen for noises like coughs. With the right training set, the earbuds might even be able to tell you if you have COVID-19, the Flu, or a cold reasonably accurately from the sound and temperature readings, reducing the need for other forms of testing. And the biometrics aren’t necessarily limited to sound and temperature and could also include the amount of oxygen in your blood further increasing the accuracy of disease notice and identification and alerting things like carbon dioxide or monoxide poisoning.
We are racing toward cybernetics and the ability to enhance humans with technology. Blazing this trail is Qualcomm’s new QCC305x solution, which will be in headsets shortly. With these headsets, you’ll be able to see and better identify specific kinds of illnesses, and you’ll also be able to hear better anyplace you go.
This advancement, I think, is the beginning of the age of cybernetics. Smart Glasses and exoskeletons will eventually follow smart Earbuds to give us the kinds of capabilities some might equate with superpowers.
However, I wouldn’t buy a spandex suit and a cape yet; we still have years to go before we finish building this bridge towards surgically implanted cybernetics.
Here is hoping you have a wonderful holiday season!