A Bragi Dash Retrospective
Some borrowed time with a borrowed set of Bragi Dash and some insights to the space of hearables and augmented senses.
During a recent business trip, my Apple AirPods were lost somewhere between me finishing a workout and checking out. I kicked myself somewhat, but for the most part just checked the box of inattentivness and ordered a new pair.* In the meantime, I’m getting a chance to play with the Bragi Dash — borrowed from a fellow techie — and these are my impressions towards them over the time I’ve got them in-ear.
*6 week wait to get a new pair, sheesh. Ain’t even mad, they aren’t bad but I wouldn’t have seen this opportunity to play with the Dash unless this happened.
Things to Keep Doing
The Bragi Dash are the kind of device which makes you believe that certain types of technologies can add measurable value to one’s life. Specifically, the audio transparency feature has made me realize just how much work my ears/mind do in terms of filtering sounds — and how much of that requires nothing from me other than focus. A feature like this is worth refining to not just simply letting all audio pass through, but similar to the Nuheara iQBuds (played w/these at CES), enable profiles which more or less make us better hearers of the world around us.
Gesture-based audio controls make a lot of sense, and I would have pushed hard for their lower-price model to keep them. It’s not simply a matter to being cool, but gestures are the kind of interface paradigm where we map behaviors to actions, not simply buttons. Yes, it’s harder initially — I kept the cheat sheet open for a few days to figure it out — but the benefits of having layers of gestures adds a pretty powerful component to a feeling of owning the tool.
The auto-start and auto-recognizing of workouts. Very impressive. No words there really. That was cool to witness and to compare to my Apple Watch. I almost want that to happen all the time, but am not sure… yet. There are only three types of workouts recognized though — I also have a decent waking regiment and it’s not recognized, likely because my heart rate doesn’t go up much.
Things to Stop Doing
Good lord is setup complicated. And I say this not just affirming Apple’s excellence in AirPod setup, but also in how many hoops it felt like I went through just to get the app to recognize the Dash. I am not even sure how to recommend it be simpler other than for the app to handle the entire connectivity process; but man, that was difficult.
A leading reason I don’t own the Dash (these are borrowed) is the reliance on a PC for software updates. Now, it might be a thing with app stores and not being able to send an update thru the app — of which I could understand being a limitation. But, the Bluetooth spec does have a pass-through internet feature, and heck, my Lumos helmet updates thru the app just fine. There should be no reason to require a PC for a mobile accessory in 2017 (and I said the same thing in 2006).
Maintaining data in a separate activity app. I don’t know. I understand the keeping of senor data on the Dash buds themselves and then transferring to the mobile when connected again, but is there really a need for a separate place the owner needs to go for this data. For example, in the health app on iOS, it will show that the Dash is the source for the data. Not sure the Dash app should be holding this separately, and exposing that to the user. Feels redundant.
Things to Start Doing
Ended up having some crazy ideas while using this around various tablet and PC devices. Here are a few:
- Since there’s a gesture system for interacting w/menus on the Dash, would be neat if that could be extended to the device you are connected to. For example, when looking at a menu, using nods to move u/d/l/r and select the option. Almost like gaze tracking but without tracking the eyes
- There needs to be a setting in the app on on the buds in which the owner can not connect to the attending mobile device. It might be just me, but most of my usage with the Dash has been best when it’s not connected to a mobile. A setting to not force the automatic Bluetooth connection would be decent — integrating that into the tap-gesture (4D or kinetic UI) would be even better.
- Move towards the fashion/jewelry space. As with the AirPods, I don’t think the impact of these will be felt unless someone is able to find these complimenting their personality and dress. That might mean a different color sleeve, that might mean a wholy different model. In any case, appealing to the emotional, fashionable senses might garner a bit more awareness of the clear benefits of sensors in the ear.
- I’ve wondered what this interaction paradigm would look like if the Dash were connected right to my Apple Watch (or even a cellular-connected Samsung Gear S3)? The idea of not needing a mobile for much of anything in social settings would be decent. Bonus on my end would be doing something like Dash, Apple Watch/Gear S3, and my Snap Spectacles. Other than communication, what really would be missing?
Conclusions to this Point
I have to admit that I’d probsbly have a better experience with the Dash Pro. It’s newer, might have solved some of the hardware bugs, and seems like sound has been addressed all the more. That’s not a bad thing — the Dash has given me much to think about in regards to computing UIs, spatial awareness, and a literally failing of my own hearing capacities. From what I’ve written towards previously, it’s confirmed a few thoughts, and created some other questions worth exploring.
What’s neat is that this could really be the closest platform to what has been seen in the movie Her. Not so much if there’s an assistant in your ear, but there are elements of computing which make sense when more of your senses are involved. Yes, the learning curve for these is a bit steep — the Apple AirPods actually do better here by not requiring so much for the owner to learn to get things going. But, pieces learned are met with a familiar realization of the friction of much of the other computing interfaces around us. The Bragi team should be satisfied with the polish done here. Other ear-wearables (hearables is a term I like) could not just learn, but extend neatly on these lessons.
Where I might go from here isn’t really determined. I’m enjoying the time I’ve been getting with these and other wearables. It’s clear though, wearables which extend the senses will do more to justify the market for wearables than those which simply collect data or triage notifications. There’s a clear value in becoming a better human — not just productive (mainframe, PCs) or connected (mobiles). The constellation of computers which might define part of how we become better humans might offer a different canvas… I’m the kind of artist who is just fine with these colors.