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First look: LifeBEAM’s artificially intelligent headphones offer a “Her” workout

TechCrunch TechCrunch 1/06/2016 Sarah Buhr

Wearable technology company LifeBEAM has powered products for the Israeli air force and brands like Under Armour and Samsung. It’s now making its own product – wireless, artificially intelligent headphones.

What does that mean, exactly? Co-founder Omri Yoffe says the new “hearables,” as he refers to these types of headphones, come with the ability to self-learn as you workout.

Sony came out with a $300 “artificially intelligent” set of headphones in 2010, the Sony MDR-NC300D Digital Noise Canceling Earbuds, but the difference with LifeBEAMS buds, called Vi, is they have built-in software that adapts to your body using biometrics such as temperature, heart rate and other data measured through inner ear motion. 

Vi also includes a workout coach and music to match your pace.

“Think of the movie “Her,” but for exercise and without all the sexual tension,” Yoffe told me on a recent visit to his temporary workspace in San Francisco’s Soma neighborhood.

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Nike and Xbox designer Scott Wilson (who’s also on the company board) created the earbuds for Vi. Harmon Kardon powers the rich sound and gives the headphones the ability to tune out external noise during workouts.

The earbuds can be customized and the headphone batteries should last up to a full day, according to LifeBEAM.

The headphones are also voice-controlled, work with a smartphone app or via text messaging and adapt to your needs rather than using a pre-programmed exercise routine. If your heart rate is up Vi will suggest you push a bit more or if the weather is bad outside the software will suggest an indoor workout that day, for instance.

You tell Vi your goals – training for a half marathon, trying to lose weight, etc. – and it adjusts, using your biometrics.

It takes a few days to a week calibrate to your body type and needs, according to Yoffe, and Vi is still in the prototype stage but I got to try it out for a good 20 minutes in a controlled setting on a treadmill.

Vi started me out slow as it got to know my biometrics. Apparently my heart rate was pretty good (I’d been caffeinated right before) so it asked me to pick up the pace quickly. The program also instructed me to say “yes” or “no” to certain tasks and encouraged me to shout out for my heart rate. 

It had a hard time spitting that one back to me when I did call it out – but Yoffe and his team also cautioned they were still working out the kinks and the program was in beta. The company plans to have a consumer ready product by December.

Overall take – It’s pretty neat to be able to run around, hands-free, wearing headphones built with rich sound and the ability to adapt to my body and my goals over time. I don’t need to keep pushing buttons on a smartwatch or check into anything, it should just tell me mileage, steps, my body temperature and heart rate on command and adjusts if I need to slow down or can handle more.

Vi just launched on Kickstarter today – early birds can get it for $199 on pre-order and LifeBEAM says it plans to start rolling the product out in early 2017.

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