SenCbuds: Smart earphones that know when you’re not listening

New Zealand-designed SenCbuds are smart earphones that detect when you stop listening. They know when you pull the earphones from your ear and pause whatever is playing. Put them back in and the audio starts again.

While this feels like magic, the trick lies in smart engineering, not hocus-pocus.

I tested a SenCbuds prototype with music on an iPhone, an Android phone and my laptop. Then I tried watching a movie, listening to a podcast and an audio book.

Testing 1-2-3

In each case they worked as promised. the music would stop if I pulled the buds from my ears. If I put the earbuds back in, the audio would start playing from where it left off.

At first I had to remind myself not to hunt for a pause button when this happened.

It’s a simple idea, that makes sense if you have to live with constant interruption.

Audiobooks and podcasts

In practice I found it more useful with audiobooks and podcasts than with music. Missing your place with music is annoying, but I can live with that. It’s easy to find where you stopped viewing a movie. Navigating back to the right spot on an audiobook or podcast is often difficult.

The SenCbuds earpieces are a fraction larger than those that came packaged with phones. That means they are tight-fitting in the ear, but this tightness acts to block external sound.

Although I found the sound quality better than on most of the earbuds I have to hand, the difference is hard to quantify. Perhaps I need better ears.

Departure

Because of the automatic stopping and starting, SenCbuds design departs from everyday earphones. There’s a reel for managing the cables — you can wind the wires around it so they don’t get tangled.

The reel has four buttons. Two advance and rewind music. The third allows you to take incoming calls on a phone. There’s also a USB port for charging the battery.

While the SenCbuds are good at handling disruption, the plus version helps stop disruptions happening in the first place. There are LEDs set into the outside of the earpiece that glow red to tell others you don’t want them to disturb you.

At the time of writing SenCbuds are an Indigogo project. You can order a set for US$50 ahead of production. When they go on the market the price will be US$70. The Plus version is US$70 compared with an expected retail price of $100.

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