High-Tech Headphones: They're Wearables Too!

Before There Were Smartwatches...

Parrot

Aside from watches, which date back to the 17th century, no body-worn category of products has been around as long as headphones. It’s not a huge stretch to think of this audio accessories as one of the original wearables — and there are oodles of choices available to consumers across the on-ear, over-ear and in-ear categories.

Now, this is a wearables site with a focus on high-tech features, so to celebrate headphones without losing sight of my core topic, I’ve rounded up some of the most sophisticated models both on the market and at the prototype stage. Enjoy — and be warned: Many of them demand a pretty penny for their high-end features.

Over Ears: Parrot Zik 2.0

You could call this set of Bluetooth over-ears the smartwatch of headphones, thanks to its impressive feature set that includes the ability to control phone calls as well as your music via a smart touch panel located on one of the cans. Editors from Engadget to CNET have praised the high-quality sound, as well.

At $400, these are by no means cheap. They do come in six colors, though, and the design (courtesy of the ultra-famous Philippe Stark) is likely to hold up for many years to come.

Over Ears (and not yet available): SiME Smart Headphones

Described as "Google Glass for your ears" by Tom's Guide, this set of headphones was on display at the Taiwanese tech trade show Computex this summer. Essentially, the device lets you listen to music and communicate while playing games — with the added benefit of a Google Glass-like prism component that lets you view images before your eyes.

The SiME is actually a follow-up to a rather clunky Google Glass knockoff, and you have to admit that this is a unique take on headphones. There's no word on how much the device will cost, though it's safe to say this won't come to the US anytime soon.

On the Face: Buhel Tech Sunglasses + Headphones

If you're not buying this whole "headphones as wearables" thing, I can pretty much guarantee you'll think this next item is more than a bit ridiculous. First introduced on Kickstarter and with more than $400,000 in crowdfunding pledged, Buhel's product combines the sun-shielding properties of shades with built-in speakers for listening to music and making phone calls.

Aesthetically, the specs leave a lot to be desired, but the hands-free, ears-free approach is certainly novel — and judging by the loads of funding the project received, plenty of people are into it.

Over Ear (and MIA): SoundSight Headphones

Originally introduced in the summer of 2014 as a concept, the wireless SoundSight over-ear cans packed a lot of promises. The features were to include a 1080p camera, voice control, and six microphones, with the purpose of letting the wearer record video from his or her point of view and then ​livestreaming this footage. The corresponding apps for Android and iOS were intended to let users edit footage before going live with a broadcast on one of several social networks. 

Though the SoundSight headphones got plenty of coverage across tech blogs, the project seems to have fizzled out. It's possible the concept many resurface in another incarnation down the line, though.