At last week’s Wearable Tech Expo in New York, I was able to sit down with Harry Ericson, president of hEar Gear, Inc., which is crowd funding its FreeWavz earbuds through Kickstarter (they’re currently looking for funding through Aug. 7). Having just recently tested some other Bluetooth-enabled fitness-themed earbuds (including the Plantronics BackBeat FIT and Blue Ant Wireless Pump HD Sportbuds), I wanted to see how FreeWavz is approaching the space.
The addition of heart-rate monitoring via the earbuds is very cool. Having a pair of earbuds that let you listen to music but also give your heart rate through audio commands will be the sweet spot in this category. At the moment, getting a reliable heart rate when running means either using a constricting/bulky chest strap or heavy wristwatch, and you still need to synch that up with an app.
With the FreeWavz, while you still need an app running, at least you can get audio cues through the earbuds instead of having to look at your smartphone to see if you’re running too fast or too slow.
I’m also impressed with how each of the two FreeWavz earbuds work independently of each other – there’s no connecting cord/strap that goes behind your head, as well as the feature that lets you turn down the volume on your left or right side to let you hear oncoming traffic – that should come in very handy for on-the-road runners and cyclists. I’m a bit worried about losing one or both units because there’s no connection strap, but hopefully the company will address this through a carrying case or other such accessories.
The design of the FreeWavz looks like it will feel comfortable for long stretches (the design is similar to the very comfortable Plantronics earbuds), and they felt light enough to not be a burden as well.
If the company succeeds in its funding goal and can mass-produce these, I’m confident that many fitness enthusiasts will jump aboard the FreeWavz concept.
UPDATE: The company announced today (Aug. 14, 2014) that it exceeded its goal, raising $325,208 with almost 1,600 backers. The company is now taking pre-orders for the smart earphones via its FreeWavz online store. A blue set is available for $219, or pink for $249 (where $25 goes to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation for breast cancer research).