The rain-soaked streets of Glasgow have provided the unlikely backdrop for the development of the PV-packing OnBeat Solar Headphones. As the sun beats down on these on-ear cans, custom-molded polycrystalline silicon photovoltaics on the headband and side hinges harvest its energy to charge up powerful batteries within the housing. A charging cable connected to the USB port on the right cup can be plugged into your smartphone or digital music player, topping up your device while you listen to some cool tunes.
The OnBeat team reckons that the headphones have enough of an active PV area to juice up the two built-in 1,000 mAh Li-ion batteries in a good 12 hours of bright sunlight. As such, the headphones will doubtless spend much of their charging time connected to a wall port or computer via USB for about four hours a pop, with solar playing a supporting role while you're out and about.
Determining the actual battery status is currently something of a guessing game, since the current pre-production prototype doesn't sport an onboard charge level indicator. When full, however, the combined battery bank should be able to replenish the power packs of most modern smartphones in one sitting.
Users can charge up a smartphone or music player's battery at the same time as listening to the music being thrown out of the 40-mm drivers. There's no need to worry about the headphones ceasing to operate when the built-in batteries run dry, as the audio circuitry is completely separate.
The headphones have a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range and a sensitivity of 100 dB (±3 dB), but that's about all we can tell you about the audio delivery. The developers say that they're all music lovers, so anyone who invests in a set of OnBeats can be assured of "a superb quality sound, from low range for bass, mid-range for precision DJ’ing and high range for vocal and acoustic excellence."
The OnBeat team told Gizmag that some of the final product specs are yet to be decided, but production units will likely be made from a flexible polypropylene grade material, with earpads fashioned from TPE rubber and held in place by ABS/nylon ear cups. The audio cable will have a 3-button inline control unit that includes a clip to grip the USB charging cable. The overall weight of the headphones will be in the region of 300 to 500 g (10-18 oz).
To get these headphones onto the ears of mobile music lovers, OnBeat has launched on Kickstarter. Early bird specials are pitched at £69 (about US$100), which includes an option for a special Kickstarter edition. Each set will come with a wall charger, a protective carry pouch and a 6.3-mm plug converter. The standard pledge level has been set at £89, which still represents quite a saving on the probable recommended retail of £119 ($178). The campaign ends on August 7, and shipping is estimated for February of next year.
One of the strengths of crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter is the ability to have conversations directly with your user base, and tweak the design to suit your target audience. In response to such feedback, the developers are planning to make the 1.5-m (5-ft) audio cable removable and, though the current batch are wired only and offer some passive noise isolation, Bluetooth and noise-cancellation technology may be included in future iterations.
Have a look at the pitch video below.