Sometimes, products are good for a whole lot more than it seems at first.
When I first tried the Doppler Labs Here Active Listening earbuds, they were presented to me as a way to make live music more interesting. The tiny, wireless earbuds essentially suck up the sounds of the outside world and manipulate them before allowing them to pass through to users’ eardrums. An accompanying app allows users to add fun effects to sounds, with filters going by names such as “Psychadelic,” “8-Track”, and “Carnegie Hall.”
That’s all fun enough, but after playing with Here Active Listenings a bit, I soon realized that these things were potentially far more interesting than they first seemed, with applications that go far beyond making concerts trippier. The key here is that these earbuds have the ability to turn the volume of the outside world up or down. This allows them to act as either a spy-gadget type device that endows users with super-powered hearing, or a discreet noise-cancelling earpiece for dimming dins.
More impressively, they give users the ability to specifically tune which frequencies they actually hear, with the app allowing users to turn some frequencies up and others down. For most people, this is a kinda neat trick, but if you have an Auditory Processing Disorder (or APD), where certain types of sounds might come off as either uncomfortably loud or impossible-to-hear quiet, this is a game-changer that I believe could have a real impact on real lives.
Lets put it this way: If you have an APD, the sounds of the outside world that most people are able to shrug off can be downright overwhelming to the point where leaving a very quiet space is physically and emotionally painful. If you’ve ever seen an autistic kid (autism comes with a very high instance of APD) out in public with giant noise-blocking headphones on, this is what they are fighting against. The Here Active Listenings are portable, discreet, and offer control over what sounds are filtered out, potentially allowing people with APDs to compensate for whatever frequencies their specific condition happens to mute or amplify.