The Dash smart earbuds play back music, and monitor your workout
By Dave LeClair
February 13, 2014
Today, companies the world over are looking to crack the wearable technology market, especially in terms of fitness tracking. Bragi is another among the lot, but instead of trying to get users to adopt some sort of bracelet or other device to do the tracking, its product, called The Dash, takes the form of something that people already wear – earphones.
The Dash, which is water-resistant up to one meter (3.3 ft), uses Bluetooth 4.0 to wirelessly connect to a smartphone. Additionally, there are no wires connecting each of the earphones to each other, so for active users, it means there's nothing to get in the way. Additionally, there's 4GB of memory, which allows users to store music directly on the earphones, foregoing the need to connect to a smartphone at all.
The earphones are designed to fit most ear shapes, and they come with three different sizes of silicone sleeves.
Controlling the earphones is done through a companion app if a smartphone is connected, and through capacitive touch sensors otherwise. Different combinations of swipes cause the device to perform different actions. This sounds like it could take a little getting used to for users who are accustomed to more traditional input methods, but it makes sense, as it allows control of the functions without adding any extra size or bulk.
As far playing music goes, these earphones feature noise cancellation that can be turned off. This means that if a user is riding a bike in busy city streets, and thus would not want to block out the noise around, the passive noise cancellation can be disabled. The team also promises high-quality sound, with 10 mW RMS and 16 Ohm impedance. Of course, it's hard to say just how good they will sound until they end up in the ears of users.
Additionally, there's an ear bone microphone that allows users to talk on the phone while wearing the earphones. Because it uses vibrations in the ear bone, background noise is promised not to be a problem while talking.
The real bread and butter of The Dash, and what separates it from other products on the market, is its ability to track all kinds of fitness metrics while in the ear of the user. To start with, it has a 32-bit ARM processor that allows it to interpret the data it receives from its numerous sensors.
As for the sensors themselves, it has a three-axis accelerometer, a thermometer, capacitive sensors (mostly for controls), and optical sensors. It can track the user's physical conditions such as heart rate, heart rate variability, oxygen saturation, body temperature, and calories burned. The Dash can also track performance measures such as steps, cadence, time, g-force, rotation, turns and more. With GPS added via a smartphone, it can also detect the distance traveled, speed, drop rate, and altitude.
All of these metrics are pretty standard for fitness devices, but the key difference here is that it's done through earbuds, which means users aren't required to wear something additional while working out. With that in mind, users seem to be responding well on Kickstarter, where the project has surpassed its US$260,000 goal with lots of time left in its funding period. Buyers who want to receive a pair, when they're expected to ship in November, are required to pledge at least $199.
The Kickstarter pitch video below provides more information and shows The Dash in use.
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