Bose launches Frames sunglasses that are also headphones

American audio brand Bose’s latest product is a pair of sunglasses that let the wearer listen to music, make calls and access augmented-reality experiences. Simply called Frames, the eyewear has a set of tiny, focused speakers in its arms that offer a listening experience similar to standard headphones. The wearable is an innovation on two fronts: first, it delivers personal audio without sitting in or directly over the ears, and second, it promises sound-based augmented-reality (AR) content.

“Bose Frames are both revolutionary and practical,” said Bose Frames director Mehul Trivedi. “They look and act like classic sunglasses — until you turn them on. And then you’re connected to your phone, contacts, the web, and all its audible content, just like headphones.”

Bose sunglasses are also headphones and can make calls

“There’s nothing else like them — they’re a breakthrough you have to see, wear and hear to believe,” continued Trivedi. Unlike what is usually referred to as AR, Bose’s platform won’t use the visual sense. It won’t overlay information on a screen like Google Glass or smartphone-based applications such as Pokémon GO.

Instead, it is audio that will be overlaid on the physical world, with Bose Frames drawing on a nine-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from a paired iOS or Android device to sync up AR experiences with the wearer’s immediate reality.

Bose sunglasses are also headphones and can make calls

Bose expects to launch the first AR experiences a few months after Frames’ initial realise in January 2019, and promises to share an update at SXSW in March. The brand highlights fitness, travel, learning, entertainment and gaming as possible uses for the Bose AR platform.

The nylon frames come in two styles — a square, Ray Banesque model, and a rounder, slightly smaller design. Both are matt black, with gold-plated steel hinges and charging pins. A pair of Frames weighs 45 grams — within the range of a standard pair of sunglasses.

A small microphone is embedded in the Frames, enabling voice control through Siri or Google Assistant and for the user to hold phone conversations. There is also a multi-function button near the right temple. Frames marks a new, third product category for Bose, which usually makes speakers and headphones.

It first announced it would be developing the Bose AR platform at this year’s SXSW, where it also unveiled concept designs for what would become Frames. At the time, it said it was collaborating with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp to develop apps for the platform, and that it would invest up to US$50 million (£39 million) in funding start-ups to do the same. It is the first significant AR platform to focus on audio experiences, with Facebook and Apple among the major companies leaning into visual AR.

By Rima Sabina Aouf