Hands-Free Headsets Could Control More Than Music in the Future

Convenience is only the first step

Key Takeaways

  • Bluetooth and wireless earbuds have seen much technological advancement, and it’s only going to improve from here.
  • As consumer technology advances, expensive features will likely become more commonplace and affordable.
  • With enough time and development, wireless headsets could change the way people interact with non-personal devices.
Smiling woman using phone while sitting at home office

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The kinds of hands-free control features we’ve seen in wireless earbuds aren’t just a fancy talking point—they could influence the way we interact with future technology.

Wireless earbuds have become much more than the curiosity that was Bluetooth headsets back in the flip phone days. As with most consumer technologies, what began as an expensive extravagance has become a bit more affordable and far more commonplace. For example, noise cancellation used to be a big deal for wireless earbuds, but now it’s almost as expected as not having wires.

This is what makes the steady development of more advanced features so promising. We’re already creating earbuds that can sense and track head motion or respond to voice commands. What happens when that technology becomes as commonplace as Bluetooth or blocking out background noises?

"Bluetooth is getting more advanced and is the starting point of something entirely new and innovative," said Nathan Hughes, marketing director for Diggity Marketing, in an email interview with Lifewire. "The future of Bluetooth will see more technical advancement with more integration of mobile phones and smartwatch features."

Where We’re At

We can look to today’s premium hardware for a look at what could become the norm tomorrow. Right now, companies like Klipsch and Bragi already are producing earbuds with limited motion control, letting you answer calls or skip music tracks by just moving your head. While companies like Poly (formerly Plantronics) have been creating Bluetooth headsets that you can control using voice commands.

"Currently, you will find headset manufacturers like Plantronics building their Bluetooth headsets with many gestures that perform different tasks," said Rolando Rosas, founder of Global Teck Worldwide, in an email interview. He pointed to "products like the Voyager 5200 UC, which activates the headset when you pick it up and can pause streaming media when you put it down."

The future of Bluetooth will see more technical advancement with more integration of mobile phones and smartwatch features.

Advanced features like these do come at a cost, however.

"As the cost of materials and transportation has increased through the pandemic, not all headset manufacturers will roll out low-cost headsets with these features," continued Rosas, "Instead, you may find newer models introduced at a premium compared to low-cost options because building headsets with gestures require additional sensors, upgraded chipsets, and firmware updates."

As is usually the case, new and advanced technology is expensive to research and manufacture. However, it’s also likely to become less costly over time as more companies begin to develop similar features.

"The easy usage, accessibility, and variety of options from high to low-end brands will become progressively popular and common among people," said Hughes, "Bluetooth headsets function goes way beyond just listening to music."

Where We’re Going

Some wireless earbuds can already cancel ambient noise, detect and compensate for sudden loud sounds, track simple head movements, and respond to your voice. It’s a far cry from what was available just a decade ago, but what about a decade or more from now?

Close-up of man's hand holding headphone near ear

Cicero Castro / EyeEm / Getty Images

"Companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are pouring huge investments into the voice arena, and headset manufacturers are producing headsets to better interact with devices and software solutions," said Rosas, "Leveraging voice technology can do many more things like launching applications, setting appointments, and alerts for health-related issues."

Wireless headset technology like that could be expanded beyond individual devices like home computers or personal smartphones. A user could, for example, link up to a library computer for a hands-free book search or connect to a store’s inventory database to locate a specific item.

Rosas also pointed out how advanced head-gesture controls between wireless earbuds and smart home technologies could be used to help someone with mobility issues. "...If nodding your head with a headset allowed you to turn the house lights on/off, open/close doors, or turn the tv on/off, that would dramatically improve your quality of life because you could perform these tasks without any assistance.”

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