Smart Headphones: Actually a Smart Idea

Muzik upgrades an oft-overlooked aspect of the digital-music arms race

Muzik headphones
Muzik headphones
Adam K. Raymond WRITTEN BY
Adam K. Raymond

Headphones that do nothing but play music will soon be dinosaurs, found only in Hollywood period pieces and museums for ancient technology. The asteroid in this metaphor is Muzik, a Miami-based startup preparing to release the world's first connected, "smart" pair.

Described by executives as "Social Smartware," a phrase the company has trademarked, these headphones are the first to allow users to post the music they're playing directly to Facebook and Twitter. They also have a built-in accelerometer that knows when you've taken them off and automatically stops the music. And when users want to adjust the volume or switch tracks, swipes and taps on the right ear cup will do the trick. Taken together, these features make Muzik "the first and only intelligent headphone system." Also, not that it matters, but they're supposed to sound really good, too. When these hit the market in the fourth quarter, they'll come with an app that USA Today describes as the musical equivalent to Instagram; via Twitter and Facebook links, the headphones will direct people to a song on Muzik's own platform, which will also allow users to follow friends and judge what they're listening to on a track-by-track basis.

Initially, these things will only stream music from Spotify and Rdio. but expect that, and a lot more, to change, as Muzik is shrewdly offering its API to developers who want to tweak the technology in unforeseen ways: They'll be encouraged to alter the function of the buttons, develop apps that take advantage of the custom gestures, devise clever ways to use the accelerometer, and generally turn smart headphones into an accessory that people stop making fun of and start lining up to buy.

Muzik wouldn't be the only company to benefit from that. Apple is working on making its classic white earbuds more brainy, with technology that allows them to measure their in-ear placement and optimize sound output based on that reading. Elsewhere, the iriver ON earbuds are a fitness-focused set that use sensors to measure "heart rate, distance traveled, steps taken, respiration rate, speed, metabolic rate, energy expenditure, calories burned, recovery time and more."

And it's about time. With the constant refinement of music apps and players (also known as phones), isn't it time to upgrade the part that goes over (or in) our ears, as well?

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