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Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Hearables are wireless wearable computing earpieces that enable voice input and return results audibly to the user’s ear.

An example of how hearables work: Hearables might be pick up a person’s name in conversation or a meeting and “whisper” details about that person to the user to help them remember them. As electronic devices get smaller the ability to integrate them into our lives unobtrusively increases the prevalence of all types of wearable computing.

For the hearing aid industry, hearables are likely to be a disruptive technology because they could perform hearing aid tasks better, with additional functions, at a lower cost and with less user-perceived social stigma.

Many hearables products in the works from both startups and larger companies involve in-ear designs. Some applications just work better this way: Heart rate and body temperature readings, for example, are more accurate from an in-ear device than something attached to the body, like a bracelet or chest band.

Some tech vendors envision hearables as part of a system connecting to other wearable devices as with an LG Lifeband connecting to its heart rate-monitoring earphones and connecting with smartphones.

Bragi’s Dash product is wireless earbuds that are their own player. Aimed at athletes, Dash features a built-in heart rate monitor, 4GB internal storage and Bluetooth to connect to other sound sources. It was speculated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats by Dre was for future hearables designs.

This was last updated in July 2014

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