With every device seeking to become a platform when it grows up, a new headset is also making that claim. On Thursday, mobile accessory maker Jawbone announced its Jawbone ERA Bluetooth headset, which it described as "a robust computing platform" that provides "the highest quality HD audio experience" and motion technology.
Jawbone founder and CEO Hosain Rahman said the company is "taking wearable devices to an entirely new level." He added that the "complete inbound and outbound audio experience" is almost addictive, and the device changes "forever the way we use headsets."
The sound quality is, of course, the first measurement for a headset. The ERA has a 25 percent larger wideband speaker than previous devices, helping to generate the high-definition audio.
Because headsets are used in an infinite variety of real-world environments, the company has upgraded its NoiseAssassin 3.0 technology, which Jawbone described -- as befits any product named assassin -- as "military grade." The technology can determine the kind of noise environment you're in, such as a restaurant or sports event, and it adjusts the inbound volume and intelligibility accordingly, without user intervention.
But Jawbone is taking the idea of a headset further. Since the wearer is often in motion, Jawbone worked with Fullpower-MotionX to develop the ERA as the first headset with a built-in accelerometer.
Rahman said this innovation puts the ERA into the next era of personal technology, where products "adapt to the way we live." For the user, this means the device can detect natural movements and respond accordingly. For instance, to put the device into pairing mode, a user can shake it in a function appropriately described as Shake Shake. To answer or end a phone call, the user can double-tap.
The companies said they are now working on a variety of additional functions using natural-movement interaction.
'A Tiny Computer' for the Ear
Jawbone is setting up the ERA as a platform for which a whole new category of applications can be developed. It described the headset as "a tiny computer on the ear, complete with multi-processor architecture and serial flash." Among the new apps currently available for the new device is a caller-ID function that identifies callers in what the company calls a "friendly, non-robotic voice." The device can also be updated by means of the MyTALK platform of customizations and apps.
Another app, Thoughts for the iPhone, is free and allows a user to send voice messages to friends and groups without having to type or call. Jawbone said it combines elements of e-mail, voice and texting.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at the Gartner Group, said that, "as Bluetooth headsets become commodity devices, vendors have to increasingly differentiate their products." He said "it's possible" that the inclusion of an accelerometer could lead to new functions, but the key question is "to what extent the new functions are useful, or are they merely technological gimmicks?"