OwnPhones aims to produce world's first 3D-printed wireless earphones
By Paul Ridden
July 24, 2014
Like many music lovers on the move, OwnPhones founder and CEO Itamar Jobani became frustrated when his off-the-shelf earphones kept falling out during sporty activity. He gathered a team of expert programmers, electronics engineers, 3D modelers and industrial designers and launched a new effort to develop custom-fit wireless earphones. The tailored personal audio throwers will range from simple plugs that stay put when you're out for a run to ornate jewelry that's sure to create an impression.
Similar to the Normal earphones, the OwnPhones will be tailored to fit and 3D-printed based on images captured using an app on a smartphone. In this case, a mobile music lover will be required to place a card close to each ear and launch an iOS app running on an iPhone (Android to follow). Where the Normal system snaps a photo and uses that to create a 3D-printed cap that locks under the antihelix, the OwnPhones user will create a short video. Once uploaded to the company's servers, the footage will be converted into 3D data and used as the template for the custom-fit earbuds that cover the whole concha and push into the ear canal.
"We’re still perfecting the scanning process," Jobani told Gizmag. "Right now, we’ve automated about 80 percent of the photogrammetry and this is a remarkable achievement. However, we want to do better. And the custom solution for fully-analyzing the 3D ear scans from 2D video is very complex. We’re correcting the common errors by collecting comparative data of mobile scans with high definition scans. We also automated many parts of the surface extraction by developing a custom process that uses border detection in combination with statistical information of ears scans. However, this process demands many programming hours and the expansion of our high-resolution ear scan database."
Customers will get to choose from four types of OwnPhones, though thousands of different design combinations are promised. The Fit version is designed to stay put, no matter what you get up to, while the Designer Fit variety adds a bit of fashion splash to the design.
The Smart Fit comes with an advanced DSP that's reported to enable filtering out ambient noise while allowing some sounds through, like someone talking or an alarm.
The SoundScaping feature in the companion app is also claimed capable of feeding audio into one earbud and switching the other off, so that wearers can hear music and also the world around them. This model features LED status lights, too. Not to indicate remaining battery life, but to inform those around you if you want to be left alone (red), are busy (yellow) or are open to conversing (green).
Taking things a step further still, the Jewelry Collection brings unique shaping and silver, brass, bronze and gold plating options. Gems can even be added to totally bling out the OwnPhones.
Tunes are streamed to the OwnPhones via Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX audio technology, with the system expected to have a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, total harmonic distortion of less than 3 percent (1 kHz, 1 mW), 100.5 dB sensitivity and 16 Ohm impedance.
There'll be an integrated omnidirectional microphone to cater for hands-free calling, and a built-in battery in each earpiece that's predicted to offer between four and six hours of playback for an hour and a half connected to a micro-USB for charging.
There's still work to be done before the custom 3D-printed wireless earphone are brought to market. To help with the final push, OwnPhones is taking to Kickstarter.
"We built a working prototype (a printed custom fit model that was obtained from a video from an iPhone, with Bluetooth components, speaker, battery and LED light)," the CEO revealed. "As mentioned in the Kickstarter, in the final design stage we are looking to reduce its size, going forward to production."
That working prototype (above) is about the size of a US quarter, though obviously a little chunkier to accommodate all the electronics, and sports the name of Itamar Jobani circling a black disc that shows an LED when powered on. Some alpha units have been produced and placed in the ears of intrepid testers.
Pledge levels for the first units off the production line start at US$149 for the basic Fit model, and rise to $299 for the Jewelry units. The company has also put the call out for designers to join the OwnPhones creation process and further personalize and customize what's on offer. Membership of the Designer Program is pitched at $499.
If all goes according to plan, OwnPhoners will be able to start enjoying custom-fit, cable-free mobile music from April 2015.
Have a look at the pitch video below.