Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million money 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 info 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 showing, ” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement posted. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and hour with endless the chances of traveling, learn, 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 maintained AR on the sidelines.”

The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for bellows or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glass ensures that the audio is audible merely 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 place 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 cooperations 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 made 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 afterwards 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 governing body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.

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Alexa is coming to wearable devices, including headphones, smartwatches and fitness trackers

Amazon wants to bring Alexa to more devices than smart speakers, Fire TV and various other customer electronics for the home, like alarm clocks. The company yesterday announced developer tools that would allow Alexa to be used in microwave ovens, for example- so you could just tell the oven what to do. Today, Amazon is rolling out a new situated of developer tools, including one called the “Alexa Mobile Accessory Kit, ” that would allow Alexa to work Bluetooth products in the wearable space, like headphones, smartwatches, fitness trackers, other audio devices, and more.

This kit is already being used by several companies, including device manufacturers and solution providers Bose, Jabra, iHome, Linkplay, Sugr, Librewireless, Beyerdynamic, Bowers and Wilkins.

Amazon said Bose in particular had been working with the company to build, design and test the answer, and refine the new kit, which will be made more broadly available to developers this summer.( Sign up is here .)

“Bose is excited to add a remarkable new Alexa experience for our clients, ” said Brian Maguire, Director of Product Management at Bose, said in a statement. “Accessing Alexa’s music, datum, and vast number of skills on our headphones will become easier than ever, and we’re looking forward to bringing our collaboration to life.”

The Mobile Accessory Kit would allow a brand like Bose to better compete with the likes of Apple and Google, each who have tied their own voice assistants to their respective Bluetooth headphones- Apple’s AirPods and Google’s Pixel Buds. As voice computing and virtual assistance continues to grow in popularity, it will be increasingly important for other brands- that are not Apple or Google- to have a route to compete. Amazon’s big gamble here is that it can capture that larger marketplace by offering access to Alexa, permitting the hardware device makers to do what they do well- which is not inevitably voice computing.

The addition of the Mobile Accessory Kit follows on last year’s launching of the AVS Device SDK, which allowed device manufacturers to incorporate Alexa in their connected products. This new kit, however, is more of an alternative, is targeted at those who need a more “lightweight method to build on-the-go products, ” explains Amazon.

That’s because devices employing this kit won’t have Alexa built-in- they’ll is attached to Alexa by pairing with Bluetooth to the Amazon Alexa App.

The kit was one of two developer tool announcements out today, ahead of CES.

The other is an update to the Amazon Alexa 7-Mic Far-Field Development Kit called the Amazon Alexa Premium Voice Development Kit. Aimed at commercial device makers, the kit allows them to enable high-quality, far-field voice experiences in their products, says Amazon. The kit is based on the technology that Amazon introduced in its latest Echo family of devices, which offered upgraded experiences over the original Echo.

This kit includes support for either 7-mic broadside or 8- mic rectangular array committees, for different types of devices. It also incorporates Amazon’s proprietary software and algorithm technology for “Alexa” wake word recognition, ray forming , noise reduction, and acoustic echo cancellation. More info on that kit is here.

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Bose debuts new Google Assistant-optimized noise cancelling headphones

Bose’s rumored QC 35 II noise-cancelling headphones are rumored no more: Bose attained them official today, disclosing the update to the company’s popular QC 35 premium noise-cancelling cans.

Google worked with Bose to create the new headphones, the company explained in a new blog post, helping to “optimize” the audio accessory for Assistant, Google’s virtual helper software for iPhone and Android. The headphones have a dedicated Assistant button, which users can pushing to call up the voice-based companion whenever they want.

They don’t have Assistant on board as a dedicated service, per se- instead, they incorporate support for Assistant-based offerings including incoming notifications, audio features like news briefings and voice commands for calling and music playback.

Assistant support will be available on the QC 35 II in the U.S ., Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the UK, and the headset retails for $349 in the U.S.- the same cost as the QC 35 that came before.

Google mentions in its blog post on the new partnership and integration that it’s been working with Bose on Assistant integration for headphones “starting with” the QC 35 II, which implies that we could see this feature expand to even more of the Bose line.

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