Doppler Labs Introduces "Bionic Ears" That Can Control Live Sound Experience

The Here Active Listening System was developed with some help from Hans Zimmer and Quincy Jones.
Courtesy of Doppler Labs

Start-up Doppler Labs is introducing some inventive technology designed to let users control and personalize their live listening experience — for instance at a concert or on a plane — by wearing wireless Bluetooth earbuds that are controlled by a smartphone app.

The Here Active Listening System — what the company also describes as "bionic ears" — was unwrapped Tuesday morning on Kickstarter, though its development team has already attracted some high-profile investors, notably Hans Zimmer and Quincy Jones, who are communicating regularly with the team and providing development input.

These are not like earphones in that they are not designed for music playback, nor are they designed to compete with noise-cancelling headphones (though there can be some overlap) or as a replacement for a hearing aid. Rather, the idea is to let the user effectively make a personal "mix" of whatever he or she is hearing, such as a live concert.

The system uses signal processing algorithms that target specific frequency ranges so that you can isolate and control a given sound as it enters your ears. Tools include volume control; an equalizer to adjust bass, mids or treble; sound effects such as reverb and echo; and preset filters that, for instance, might reduce the sound of a crying baby while you're on a plane or boost the bass at a concert. The company claims that this occurs in real time with no perceivable latency. 

"They're not for use all the time," Doppler Labs' CEO and co-founder Noah Kraft told The Hollywood Reporter. "But wearable technology is the future. For the near term [this offers] a 'magic' audio experience for concerts or flights."

The buds have up to six hours of battery life, according to Doppler Labs, and the system's been tested everywhere from Coachella (another partner) to subways to street corners. And the company is seeking input from their investors, who will have the opportunity to test the system and also conceive filter ideas.

According to Kraft, the company, which was founded in 2013, currently has a working prototype of the system. Plans are to release prototypes to investors for testing in November, and ship in December for a list price of $249 (with discounted pricing for investors).

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