Sony's Concept Earphones are Home to a Virtual Assistant

By Tom Pritchard on at

The virtual assistant hasn't exactly been a recent development, especially when you consider how old Clippy is. But that hasn't stopped the tech companies going nuts for them over the past year or so, and it seems like everyone is scrambling to get their own AI companions to market in the hopes that everyone will forget Siri and Google Assistant exist. Sony is the latest one to give it a go, but rather than sticking an AI into a phone or a glorified speaker it's gone and put it in a pair of earphones.

Again. The first generation of the Xperia Ear headphones were shown off last year. Unfortunately they were pretty rubbish, especially when battery life was concerned. Now Sony is back to try again.

The assistant is called the Sony Agent, and lives inside the newly-updated Xperia Ear earphones. You can see them above, with their Bluetooth headset-inspired design. Apparently the technology is "hands-free, eyes-free, and ears-free". Wait, what?

That's right, ears-free. Sony claims that the Xperia Ear uses something called 'open-ear technology'. This means that the audio is sent straight into your ear canal, and lets wearers listen to music an interact with Sony Agent without being completely cut off from the outside world. It's not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, but to be honest, I always considered outside noise to be a nuisance when you're trying to listen to music. Loud volumes and noise cancelling headphones exist for a reason.

I suppose it could be helpful for times when you need to be aware of your surroundings, like when you're skiving off work and need to keep an ear out for the boss. But I bet it'd be torture on a train full of screaming children (which usually ends up being most of them).

The updated Xperia Ear is still a concept for the time being, and Sony is keeping the specs very close to its chest. What we do know, however, is that there will be a feature called 'Anytime Talk', that makes it easier for you to start up a group call without having to manually scroll through your contacts list. [The Verge]

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