The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million fund devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform.
While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision.
The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by Southwest in Austin this year, will use visual information captured by the glasses and add contextually relevant audio information to its wearer.
Bose’s AR kit is a “wafer-thin” acoustics package that the company hopes can be added to headphones, eyewear, helmets and other wearables to give a new spin on reality “augmentation.” The company said the new technology can be controlled with voice commands, head gestures and simple touch gestures.
The new product is a clever spin on augmented reality and a product that plays into Bose’s strength. “It places audio in your surroundings, not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you — rather than a tiny display,” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and time with endless possibilities for travel, learning, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have kept AR on the sidelines.”
The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for calls or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glasses ensures that the audio is audible only to the listener wearing the glasses, and the acoustic packages fit inside the arms of the glasses.
Sensors in the glasses track the orientation of a listener and integrate with an iOS or Android device to track location and motion, which is sent to the AR-enabled application in the wearables.
The company is already working with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp on collaborations that will provide content for the wearables, while MIT’s Media Lab and the NYU Future Reality Lab are also playing around with prototypes.
But Bose wants entrepreneurs and programmers to develop their own applications. They’ve created a $50 million fund to finance companies that would like to work with the new audio technology and is providing an SDK and updated glasses later this summer.
Bose has invested in a number of companies already — unrelated to its new augmented reality platform — that are all based on novel wearable technologies.
The platform includes investments like Embr Labs, a wearable for regulating body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.