Battery life has been a big obstacle for wearable devices so far. If a smartwatch’s battery isn’t making it too bulky to be considered attractive, then chances are it doesn’t last long on a charge.
Head-mounted devices sometimes require a battery pack, which can make them feel heavy or cumbersome.
Engineers are still working on better battery components optimised for wearables, but Intel has figured out a power option that addresses this concern for smart earbuds.
Intel and SMS Audio announced Thursday the SMS BioSport In-Ear Headphones, a collaborative effort between the two companies.
Like other devices of its kind, such as LG’s fitness-focused earbuds, SMS Audio’s new offering is capable of measuring your heart rate and syncing with an app to tell you how many calories you’ve burned or how far you’ve run.
But what makes SMS and Intel’s offering stand out is that there’s no battery required. The headphones draw their energy from your phone through its audio jack, and Intel claims that this is the first device of its kind to do so.
LG’s smart earbuds, for example, come with an accompanying medallion that house its battery and sensors. Other heart rate monitors require you to wear a strap across your chest. All of the sensors in Intel and SMS’ earbuds are housed in the headset itself.
“That’s sort of the magic part,” Mark Eastwood, senior wearable electronics designer for Intel’s New Devices Group, told Business Insider in an interview. “We eliminated an entire component in ditching the battery pack, which is sort of the bane of all these technologies. It becomes one less thing you have to deal with.”
Since this is the case, SMS’ headphones are a bit more limited than LG’s. While they offer all the essentials, they don’t offer an in-ear voice guide like LG’s smart earbuds. Intel says that it hopes to integrate additional features in the future.
According to Intel, there’s no concern that these earbuds will suck too much power from your phone. The BioSport In-Ear Headphones supposedly take as much power as your typical in-ear wired headphone.
It took Intel a year to perfect the technology in its heart rate monitor headphones. Not only did the company have to figure out how to harness power from its audio jack, but it also had to make sure the speakers were able to function alongside the infrared sensors used to measure your heart rate.
The ability to seamlessly switch from playing your music to acting as a microphone when you receive a phone call all while measuring your heart rate was a challenge for Intel.
“They’re essentially taking what was a rechargeable battery pack, and fitting all those components into the headset,” Eastwood said in reference to Intel’s electrical engineering team.
Intel went through about 100 different revisions just to get the technology working properly, said Hans Moritz, vice president of Intel’s New Devices Group and the company’s general manager of industrial design. Once the technology was finished, Moritz said Intel went through “countless” revisions to get the design small enough.
Despite devices like the SMS BioSport In-Ear Headphones and LG’s Activity tracker earbuds entering the market, wristbands still seem to be the most popular fitness devices. Intel, however, says that using in-ear devices can prove to be more accurate when it comes to fitness, since people sometimes tend to swing or move their arms when they’re not necessarily exercising.
Expect to see the SMS BioSport In-Ear Headphones available through SMS’ website late this fall. The companies haven’t disclosed a price point just yet.
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