At first glance, Sound by Human is unlike any listening device on the market. Seeking to reinvent both headphones and earphones, they felt the ideal form factor was in between the two; their on-ear design is a bit unconventional, as is the range of things it offers. Futuristic, minimal, logical and admittedly a bit curious. The brainchild of co-founders Ben Willis and Joe Dieter, Sound is more than headphones—the device is also a speaker, can filter out ambient noise, allows multiple people to share music, offers biometric- and sleep-tracking, and (why not) real-time audio translation. We spoke with co-founder Willis (who is the company’s CEO) to find out more about the forward-thinking, multi-functional device that is not only personal, but meant to connect people.
“When I was 12 when I assembled my first computer,” Willis tells us, “I was really obsessed with computing, but also very obsessed with design… Design and the power of computing technology always struck me as having a massive future and influence on people’s lives—which we have obviously seen over the past decades.” It makes sense then that Willis would eventually go on to create a tech device that doesn’t simply add to the over-saturated world of headphones and speakers, but genuinely adds value to it. Sound—aside from its comfortable design—is physically good for wearers in other ways. It offers biometric monitoring so wearers can track their activity and health by receiving real-time updates and stats. These stats are especially accurate as Sound tracks a wearer’s pulse in and around the ear, a place on the body where it’s most powerful. There is also a sleep aid in the form of noise-isolating rhythms, and the device tracks your sleep patterns.
Unsurprisingly, all these features came well after Willis and his team saw a void in the market. “Audio sound has the most opportunity, even though it’s one of the most cluttered industries. This is because you have two options: over-ear headphones that are massive, bulky and dated. They’re impractical to carry around, and they are kind of uncomfortable, but they do offer sound quality. The other option is earbuds that are better on the go, but then you sacrifice audio quality and comfort—wedging something into your ear canal,” Willis says. Because of the lack of options, Willis and his team took a step back and looked at what exactly they were building a product for: the human ear. This pragmatic approach led them to Sound, which is a hybrid of over-ear headphones and earbuds—taking the best of each to create a superior device. Their form allows for practical things like larger antennas, room for processors and sensors and batteries.
“The products we make affect our lives so dramatically,” Willis tells us, when discussing Sound’s most impressive features. “It doesn’t have to become more cluttered or a distraction, it really becomes something that empowers us and unleashes connectivity.” That connectivity is clear with Sound users’ ability to share their music (or audio, like a walking or museum tour for example) with many other wearers (the exact number is still being defined) and its speaker mode, which can easily fill a room with sound. Connectivity is even more evident in Sound’s ability translate languages in real time. Currently supporting eight languages (though still in beta testing), Sound can help users converse in a bilingual conversation with its live-time language translations system.
Guaranteed to get attention for its unique design, reported sound quality and multi-functional uses, Sound is a truly impressive innovation. What we like best, however, is how unlike so much technology, Sound (while of course working as personal headphones) is focused on connecting people, rather than isolating them with products that force users into a little bubble.
With touch-control and a 12-hour battery life, Sound is currently funding on Indigogo.
Images courtesy of Human