Imagine with me.
You’ve had a stressful morning that involved pioneering your own parking space beneath an overpass you didn’t even know existed, just barely squeezing in without getting insurance companies involved. You rush about your errands and are now late for your next appointment. You hit the sidewalk fretting– how on earth are you supposed to find your car?
When suddenly, a voice in your head reminds you of its exact location.
Maven Machines is on its way to making that voice in your head much more trustworthy and tangible. Maven is in the process of developing a small earbud, made to be tucked wirelessly into the user’s ear, that yes, can help you find where you parked your car, and so much more.
Avishai Geller, CEO and Founder of Maven Machines, says the earpiece uses a series of sensors, including an accelerometer, GPS locator, infrared sensors, heart rate sensors, and a microphone, to gather useful data about the wearer. It then transforms this data into useful knowledge in service of the wearer.
“The earpiece knows the situational context of the user. It knows what the user is doing at any given time. For example, if you’re standing up or sitting down, if you’re inside or outside…are you in an elevator? Are you alone or in a group of people, or in a conversation with someone? It knows what the person is doing. And it’s a platform for applications to take advantage of this new information about people,” Geller says.
An earbud that understands me? Sounds like something from the movie Her, with Joaquin Phoenix. Geller says that the comparison isn’t wrong. “It’s actually a pretty accurate representation of what the earbud can do.”
“The sensors are sensing movements and sounds around people, understanding the signals coming in from these sensors, and calculating new data about the individual. The idea is that it’ll be useful for different use cases. Different use cases will require different sensors. We’re still deciding on the main ones to target initially, and that will determine which sensors will be part of the final product.”
Geller explains that the earpiece is meant to be worn all day, can recharge wirelessly, and has a bluetooth connection to a smartphone.
For everyday purposes, the benefits of this technology are pretty basic. Making hands-free calls that are wired straight into your ear, receiving physiological information without lifting a finger, directions to your next appointment without the distraction of glancing at Google Maps.
Geller says that the idea is autonomous data collection. “A basic use case is useful information. For example, the sensors would be able to determine if you were driving a car, and the earbud would sense when you park it. Later, if you can’t remember where you parked, you could just say, ‘Maven, where’s my car?’ and it would respond, ‘Oh, you parked two blocks over on such-and-such a side street.’ It just does it autonomously.”
For the everyday user, the earpiece has all the functionality of a modern headset, but with the added knowledge of the sensors.
Within the work force, Geller has different ideas for Maven.
“Service engineers are out there fixing jet engines, and with Maven, they could have an assistant in their ear telling them which operations they need to perform. Imagine a warehouse worker in a large warehouse. And they have to put together an order with 20 different parts. Right now, they have a handheld device that they have to pay attention to. It ties up their hands and their focus. With the earbud, you have an assistant sort of inside your head, prompting you where to go and what to do and giving you directions along the way. We’re speeding up the efficiency of this kind of process.”
Maven Machines has been working out of AlphaLab Gear, a startup accelerator, since just after Labor Day. Geller says AlphaLab Gear has provided Maven with a space and workshop, as well as meaningful mentors and access to relevant people within the tech community.
Geller refers to Maven Machines as a “wearable device company.” Wearables, which are coming to public attention via products like Google glass or the new Apple Watch, are any kind of technology that can be worn on your body including clothing. For Geller, Maven’s idea of the intelligent earpiece was kind of a no-brainer.
“The reason that we’re going in the direction of earphones is because headphones were really the first wearable device. As opposed to things like Google glass, where a lot of people complain about privacy issues, and it just looks kind of strange to have somebody with a camera on their face looking right at you. It’s not socially acceptable.
An earpiece, however…people are very comfortable wearing them and being around other people that are wearing them. It’s socially acceptable. It makes a lot more sense to deliver the intelligence in the earpiece than in something like glasses.”
Geller says that Maven Machines hopes to produce an entire line of earphones for different uses. He says that different people require different uses, and Maven will further develop their product to cater to those needs. He adds that the earpiece will be capable of running applications produced by third party developers, similar to the way a smartphone uses applications. The “Maven” earpiece will be their first wearable product.
“I definitely think it’s going to be ubiquitous. It’ll be like a smartphone and everyone will have one on them at all times. In many ways it may even replace the smartphone,” says Geller.
Geller hopes to have a complete product within the first half of 2015.