Bose, the company you probably know best for noise-canceling airplane headphones, is getting into the sunglasses business. But the coolest part of the Frames is that they are a canvas for new software.
Bose Frames will work like Bluetooth earbuds. The part of the temple that sits near your ear plays audio (music, calls, voice assistants) that only the wearer can hear. It’s controlled with a microphone and a multifunction button embedded in the right temple. The first sets will go on sale in January 2019 for $199.
Along with audio, a battery, and connectivity components, the Frames have a nine-axis motion sensor. Combining that data with your phone’s GPS, Frames can ascertain what you’re looking at, which is necessary for augmented-reality uses.
I tested an early prototype of this back in March 2018. As I walked around, I would look at a building and tap the right temple—at which point a voice would tell me, for example, the name and hours of that restaurant. Bose says companies like Yelp, Strava, and TripAdvisor will be making software for Frames.
The software canvas is called Bose AR, and it’s a pretty radical approach to augmented reality. It doesn’t visually overload you or force you to hold your phone between you and whatever you’re trying to observe. During my short test, it was like having an omniscient tour guide who only spoke when you asked.
Bose’s approach also shows a lesson learned from Google Glass: The Frames have no camera. No one will accuse you of recording them since there’s no lens on the front.
The Frames will come in two styles (one square-ish, one rounded). Both will block 99 percent UVA/UVB rays, have gold-plated hinges and charging pins, and weigh 45 grams. Recharging is done with a pogo pin cable, like on Snap Spectacles or MagSafe chargers on old Apple laptops. Bose says they will give continuous audio playback for up to 3.5 hours, and can sit on standby for up to 12 hours. Recharging will take less than two hours.
Bose says the audio will be “discreet, jaw-dropping.” Considering the company’s capabilities with headphones, speakers, and car audio, I’m optimistic. But the real reason to buy Frames will come when developers create useful software. Bose says it will have more news about this in March 2019.