Stand-alone earbud player puts the bite on music
By David Szondy
October 4, 2013
Want to listen to music in public but not be obvious about it? Until someone figures out how to make music play in your head, the next best thing might be Split. Developed by Greenwing Audio in Miami Beach. Florida, Split is a music player set in a pair of wireless, synchronized earbuds that are controlled by biting. Still under development, its the focus of a Kickstarter campaign running until October 31 to bring the player to market.
An mp3 player has a lot going for it. It’s portable, it’s convenient, and you can move your entire music collection in a way that once took a crew of moving men and a van. But the biggest drawback is the headphone cords. They tangle, they break, they get caught in things, and are a nightmare when scarves come into the picture. And then there’s the player itself, which always needs a pocket.
Two years under development, Split is aimesd at eliminating the problems of cords and players by eliminating cords and players themselves. At first, it seems like something a bit silly: A pair of earbuds with little oblongs sticking out of them, but inside a one-inch stainless steel casing is a tiny, 100-micron thick circuit board with a NOR Flash memory chip with a capacity from 64MB to 256MB, an ARM Cortex M3 32-bit processor, and a 3-axis accelerometer folded in on itself three times, a button cell battery, a earbud speaker with a 6-mm Neodymium Dynamic Driver.
The obvious question is, how do two earbuds act like one music player? The answer, according to the developers, is that the Split earbuds are synchronized. Unlike a Bluetooth headset, Split uses high-precision crystal clocks and a short, near-field radio signal to sync the earbuds when activating, or when the track or volume are changed.
Not having any buttons or microphone for voice command, Split uses its accelerometers for control. These are designed to respond when the user bites. One bite, even a soft “bite click,” changes tracks, and two bites changes the volume, cycling through low, medium, high and muted volume settings. The volume control can also be used to place the player on standby.
Obviously, this can be a problem if you’re eating, chew gum. or grind your teeth, so tapping the right earbud deactivates the control. Using the included software, the volume and control modes can be customized. You can even set a particular volume for particular tracks.
The developers say that Split works with most audio formats and is compatible with both Windows and Mac systems. At the current state of development, the Split earbuds hook up to one USB cable for programming and a second for charging, though the developers hope to combine these two functions in the near future.
As far as aesthetics go, Split is available in red, though pearl, purple, citrus (is that orange, yellow or green? – Ed) and black will be available later, if demand warrants it. In the meantime, they are available as an option at the higher Kickstarter campaign reward levels.
The current Kickstarter campaign is aimed at bringing the current design to production standard, including the completion of the USB design, finalizing the software, modifications to the casing, user testing, and development for mass production.
Split is offering Split on Kickstarter for a US$155 pledge.