German audio company Bragi takes the expression "hands free" literally with its $329 Dash Pro wireless earbuds. Aside from pushing buttons to control music playback, you can just move your head: Look to the right to skip forward or to the left to skip back, for instance. This Virtual 4D Menu, as Bragi calls it, comes about six months after a software update allowing owners of previous models to control the device by touching their face, such as tapping a cheek to activate Siri or Google Now. Doubling as a fitness tracker, Bragi's earbuds include sensors that also allow it to pick up face taps and now, head movements. A software upgrade brings head-movement controls to the original Dash earbuds—a 2015 Kickstarter sensation that raised about $3.4 million against its $260,000 goal.
The newest models offer some extra powers. Pairing with the iTranslate smartphone app enables translation of speech for dozens of languages. (Bragi also promises better audio quality and more reliable Bluetooth pairing—addressing critiques of its first model.) A $499 version called the Dash Pro tailored by Starkey is made from custom ear molds of the user.
That's a pretty minor contribution from Starkey—a maker of high-end hearing aids costing thousands of dollars. Future Bragi headphones, due within a year at a price unknown, will include Starkey audio processing tech that can do things like filter out noise and sharpen voices so wearers hear better in crowds. That will put Bragi in competition with sound-processing earbuds like Doppler Labs' Here One—just as pending legislation to encourage over-the-counter hearing aids may be kicking in. SC