Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Oct 2019

Ear Muscles

Leveraging newly acquired Vue glasses to explore other ranges of hearing

Been sitting on how to best talk about these glasses. Sure, there’s the vantage point of Kickstarter as something of a motivator. These Vue glasses have taken the better part of nearly three years to make it onto my head. And this isn’t a slight to Vue or Kickstarter, that’s just the nature of product development which finds itself strengthened or weakened by the same audience that consumes it.

A better focus could be the product itself. Vue has certainly produced a ground-breaking product with glasses which utilize bone conduction speakers and mics. Those who have worn glasses and headphones/earphones for a few decades can empathize with the struggle of segmenting attention and hearing alongside attention and sight. Wireless sound has helped greatly, and yet there’s always the consideration for undue weight on the ears. Glasses have evolved far beyond their “sight impaired” audience beginnings. And here Vue is a solid explanation as to where that can land. There’s some polish to be gained on it for sure; but for the effort, one cannot doubt that making it across the finish line is an incredible achievement for the product and the advances to be gained from the shrinking sizes of silicon.

However that isn’t the right focus either. One of the use cases explored has been more along the lines of extending hearing and focus. For an experiment, allowing the Vue glasses to handle a call or background music while also using AirPods has opened a question: just how much can one’s ear muscles be developed (or underdeveloped) towards focused conscious attention? No conclusions, but certainly some headaches and moments of confusion.

Liken this experiment to focusing on a musical score while someone is also telling you about a movie which has a different score. Just how developed is hearing beyond and alongside focusing attention? Can that muscle be developed? Is there some limit to simultaneous inputs of complexity and making sense of it all?

No clue. And Vue offers the best expression yet of a wearable, connected device which gets closer to “hey, how does your brain actually deal with all these inputs” than others tried before. It just so happens, instead of adding to soundscapes or isolating oneself from them, certain wearables might be at the very place where we can question evolution and postulate other paths. Or, at least be strong enough to hear and lift them.