One of the most innovative wearables companies is building a pair of 'smart' earbuds

Misfit, the wearables company recently acquired by Fossil, is jumping into the “hearables” market with its own set of smart wireless earbuds called “Specter.”

The buds are still in the testing phase, but Misfit has ambitions that they will help define an emerging category of wearable.

Not just headphones

When Misfit CEO Sonny Vu talks about Specter, he begins at an unlikely place: Google Glass.

Google Glass, he explains, was in some ways an incredible product. The idea of being able to take in or shut out the world, and to have the information coming into your brain enhanced, is powerful. You can’t deny that, he says.

Vu just thinks that Google started with something untenable: wearing a computer on your face.

The ears are a much more natural fit for the kind of experimentation Google was after, at least right now, he argues. People walk around with headphones on constantly, even sometimes when they are actually talking to a cashier. This means you can walk around with a device like Specter, and benefit from all its smart capabilities without alienating the people you come across.

What is Specter?

First and foremost they will be a high-quality set of Bluetooth earbuds, Vu says. Specter will launch in partnership with audio tech company 1More, and 4-time Grammy winner Luca Bignardi has been part of the project.

“The limit of the sound quality is going to be Bluetooth and not the headphones themselves,” Tim Golnik, Misfit’s VP of product and design, says. But Specter is still in prototype, so I wasn’t able to test the audio myself.

What I can speak to is the form factor, which is sleek and comfortable in person. Specter will still have a wire connecting the two buds, and if you are someone who wants one of the “truly” wireless earbuds, you will want to look elsewhere. But be warned, truly wireless earbuds can have problems of their own, such as battery life.

But the real potential of Specter isn’t in creating a high-quality set of earbuds, but in bringing the “smart” functionality of Misfit’s other wearables, connecting Specter to your other devices in innovative ways.

Specter will have the standard three buttons you find on many headphones: volume up, volume down, and play/pause. But it will also have a fourth button, which you can assign a function to, and which Misfit is still playing around with.

It will also have activity and sleep tracking using an embedded accelerometer.

When the product does finally launch, there will likely be other Specter hardware components, Golnik says, which will enable even more “smart” functions. He was hesitant to name them because Misfit simply doesn’t know if they will work yet, especially for the first iteration of Specter.

Golnik says that with the first release of Specter, Misfit’s number one focus is simply making a great pair of headphones. You have to nail that to initially gain consumers’ trust.

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