When was the last time you had headphones in or on? If you’re like most Americans, you’re either wearing a set right now, or you’ve had them on within the past 24 hours.
Despite being a technology that’s more than 100 years old, headphones consistently improve and become more advanced. Today’s listeners, who subscribe to podcasts, listen to music, and have the full auditory experiences, couldn’t be happier about that.
Want to know some of the latest trends that are driving headphone technology, and where could it go from here?
The Biggest Headphone Trends
If you’re looking for a new pair of headphones, or you’re waiting to see what’s coming, these are the trends to watch for:
1. Bone conduction is a headphone technology that’s been around for a few years but it’s yet to be perfected. The term might sound like a roller coaster or a superpower, but the tech is grounded in physiology. As you know, sound is a series of vibrations interpreted by our ears and brain. Usually, the vibrations travel through the air, but bone-conduction technology sends vibrations into the upper portion of your jaw, and from there into your inner ear. The idea is to provide a more direct, seamless route for sound to your ear. Currently, there are no products with this technology on the market, but scientists are working to perfect it.
2. Sleeping headphones. Millions of people rely on soft music or the soothing conversations of podcasters to go to sleep at night, but it’s annoying to try to fall sleep with a clunky or intrusive pair of headphones on your ears and head. That’s why Bose and other headphone giants are working on developing more sleep-friendly earbuds. These contour comfortably to your ears and cancel external sounds at the same time
3. Wireless earbuds. Everything’s headed toward becoming as wireless as possible — and that includes headphones. In the near future, cords and cables as we have to deal with them may become obsolete. The latest models of smartphone are doing away with headphone jacks, and if the trend continues, all headphones could operate wirelessly someday.
4. Translation headphones. Headphones are also becoming more practical, with specific functions that enable a better understanding of your environment. Amplifying headphones, akin to hearing aids, are in development, and Google has just launched a pair of phones capable of near-instant translation of more than 40 different languages in real time. If you’re interested in traveling to a foreign country in the near future, now’s a perfect time to invest in a new pair of earbuds.
5. Better noise-cancelling. Noise-cancelling technology has long been a feature of traditionally designed headphones and earbuds, but it hasn’t necessarily been all that effective. Noise-cancelling technology is becoming more sophisticated, though: capable of blocking more extraneous sound than ever, and offering the option to toggle headphones between noise filtering and noise accepting.
6. VR and 360 soundscapes. Sound is also increasing in spatial complexity. Surround sound systems at home and in theaters gives listeners a nearly 360-degree sonic experience, which ensures a deeper immersion in movies, video games, and music. The next level will be headphones that are capable of creating the same degree of spatial sophistication. This is going to become a higher priority for developers in the near future, as visual virtual reality (VR) tech takes off.
7. IoT and connectivity. Finally, we’re starting to see more "smart" headphones and equipment that connects with other devices throughout your home. New headphones that can track your health and habits can also provide all the functionality of typical headphones. Though smart watches and other wrist-bound devices get considerable attention from the media right now, headphones might represent the next revolution in wearable technology.
What’s Coming Next?
It’s not easy to say how headphone tech will develop over the next few decades precisely, but for now, it will probably continue to evolve along the lines described above. Consumers will never stop wanting more in terms of sound quality, convenience, price, and overall experience. This means headphone engineers and sound-oriented firms will keep pressing for bigger and better systems.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant. Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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