I’m writing this now 24 hours since the Bragi NYC event ended, and I’m still excited! Quick reminder: I was a Dash Kickstarter backer, I own the Headphone and wrote a review on them. However, this article is not influenced by Bragi. Here is a recap of my day.
I got to the train station and picked up some Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and bagel with cream cheese (I was pretty hungry). After a combined 2 hours of traveling, I arrived at New York Penn Station. I immediately found the nearest Chipotle for a steak burrito (yes I was really that hungry). Before I went to the Bragi event, I went to a place that was supposed to be able to safely store my backpack. Um…to say it looked sketchy would be an understatement. I decided to take my backpack to the event. Thankfully it’s a slim backpack.
The event was hosted a Damon John’s Blueprint + Co in Midtown’s Garment District. The invite said it was building 214, and I found a door with 214 plastered all over it. Turns out it was the delivery entrance for the building, so I went a few more doors down and found the main entrance and took the elevator up to the penthouse level. After I checked in, I was given a drawstring bag with a few items in it. Since I’m a Kickstarter backer, I was told there was something special in it. What’s in the bag?? A Bragi t-shirt, a card with a personalized note on it, and a small box. Inside the box was a custom cover for the Dash with my name on it and Bragi Ambassador printed on it. I’m not sure yet what a Brand Ambassador does, but maybe they don’t want to keep calling us “backers”.
Then I walked up the steps to where they were hosting the event. There was an area for us to sit during the presentation and an area to hang out and get to know a couple Bragi employees, an IBM employee, and other backers. I was surprised when Nikolaj Hviid, Bragi CEO, came up to me and said, “Hi Drew.” I was taken back for a moment because I didn’t expect a CEO to come up to me let alone know my name. Full disclosure: I have talked with him in the past, and I told him I was going to be at the event. Regardless, it’s small things like that gesture that make all the difference. Nikolaj and our group talked for a bit before he had to get ready for the presentation. Part of our group was an IBM Employee who was there to talk about Bragi and IBM Watson’s partnership later on.
Time for the live stream to start. Nikolaj starts off by thanking the Bragi team members and the backers in the room. What blew me away was a backer that spent 7 hours on a bus to attend the event. That’s true brand loyalty! Bragi might be a small and still relatively new company of 150 employees, but they’ve been busy filing over 200 patents. There is a slide on the screens of the Dash with the Amazon Echo and Microsoft Hololens. They’re being packaged together as the next generation of computing. That’s some well established company Bragi is including themselves in. However, Nikolaj is aware that these products, including the Dash, aren’t the final form factor. They’re just the beginning.
Bragi OS 3
Bragi OS 3 (aka Boss 3) is meant to take the existing Dash to the next level. To start off, they’re incorporating mesh computing (utilizing multiple computing devices to accomplish a task). OS 3 will increase the Dash’s battery life by 12%! You’ll go from 3 hours on a charge to 4.5 hours.
These are really interesting, but unfortunately at this time Bragi isn’t going to divulge much information nor give us a good look at them. There are still some patents that need to be filed to protect their intellectual property. Here’s what we do know. Slim Glasses aren’t meant to be the new Google Glass that does everything. They’re “dumb” as Nikolaj put it. All of the computing parts are in the portion that sits behind your ears. The Dash is the brains of the operation, and the Slim Glasses will pair with the Dash to provide an audio/visual experience. That’s all we’re getting for now. To me this concept product sounds like a simplified Microsoft Hololens that you can take with you no matter where you are. It will probably display some basic info such as text messages and caller ID, but it could also be a head up display for driving directions. A feature like that could eliminate the need to look away from the road completely.
The Patch is a device that’s about an inch long that is packed with sensors. You can use several Patch’s at once and pair them with the Dash to detect movement. Ok…but why? That question is one of the reasons Bragi has created a Patch section in their forums. They want to hear from consumers how they think the Patch could be used. I can think of 2 examples. You could use it for motion capture instead of needing expensive equipment and a sound stage. Second, senior citizens could have a Patch or two with them to detect if they’ve fallen and notify emergency services automatically or notify their family. Visit Bragi’s forum and let them know what your ideas are.
Artificial Intelligence and the Dash
Yes, the Dash has artificial intelligence built into it with OS 3. For now, it’s being used to determine when you’re exercising. It can determine if you’re running, biking, or swimming, and it will automatically start tracking. You can leave your phone at home and sync the activity later.
You can use head gestures to control your Dash. You simply look up and you’ll hear two tones that let you know it has been activated. A voice will say, “4D Menu” and if you wait for a moment it will tell you how to navigate the menu. You simply look left and right. There are two menu options on each side; activity, assistant, play/pause, and skip. Once you’re looking at the menu option you want just nod your head to select it. The menu options will be customizable in the future.
Ok, that’s a neat feature, but when would I use it? I’ve used the 4d Menu when my hands are full carrying groceries into the house and at the gym in the middle of a set just to name a couple ways. This feature would also benefit people with disabilities that might find it difficult to tap on the Dash. This is version 1 of the feature, and they already have plans for the next step.
Bragi is partnering with IBM’s Watson to target the workforce. Employers can monitor the vital signs of their employees, notify employees of a danger in a construction area, or enable an employee to navigate a how-to manual while they’re learning how to repair a jet engine. Nikolaj also mentions how this feature could benefit troops, firefighters, police officers, and others that put themselves in harms way to help others. You could instantly communicate with everyone clearly regardless of ambient noise.
No, it’s not going to turn you into a superhero. Superhearing started out as Audio Transparency, but will be getting some new tricks. Unfortunately that’s all we’re being told for now.
A feature that wasn’t talked about during the presentation is Shortcut. Shortcut can be activated with a double tap on the side of your face near your ear. You can set Shortcut to activate a digital assistant, skip a track, and more via the Bragi app. I no longer double tap the Dash to change tracks because I find it much easier to just double tap the side of my face. There were a few times where I feel silly tapping my head in public because no one else has a clue what I’m doing, but I got over that pretty quickly.
Live Speech Translation
Yes, you read that right. Bragi is delivering on a concept they had when the Dash was on Kickstarter. Bragi has partnered with iTranslate to so you can talk to another person that speaks a different language and be able to understand them and have a meaningful conversation. Both people don’t need to own a Dash. One person can have a Dash and they can take out their phone so the other person can see a live translation. You can also pair two Dashes together for a direct connection. The demo video below is amusing (we all laughed at the presentation), but it only demos a female voice. Hopefully there will be a male voice as well. iTranslate is an app and a service in addition to the Bragi app. It seems like it will be a regular fee to use the feature. Hopefully all Dash owners will get a trial period to test this awesome feature.
Bragi OS 3 and all of its features are now available for download.
Bragi has been listening to their users, and they’ve made enhancements/improvements based on that feedback. Nikolaj admitted that the original Dash shipped with average Bluetooth performance. This is one of a few features that has been a big complaint from the users. The Headphone, Bragi’s second product, addressed this issue after some engineering magic, and that innovation has been included in the Dash Pro. As I mentioned in the Headphone review, they definitely have a stronger signal and a longer range. The audio performance has been completely reworked as well. This isn’t limited to audio playback. The enhanced audio also provides higher quality audio in phone calls (another complaint from users). The original Dash shipped with 3 hours of battery life on a single charge, and OS 3 extends that to 4.5 hours. Dash Pro will get 5 hours of battery life. That’s just 1 hour less than the Headphone, and the Dash Pro has many more features and components. Apple’s Airpods also get 5 hours on a single charge, but the features are very limited when compared to the Dash and Dash Pro. Nikolaj and the Bragi team are definitely providing more bang for your buck. You still get all of the features from the original Dash (4GB internal storage, waterproof, etc) and all of the new features.
Enhanced Voice Technology
Bragi has also partnered with Knowles to integrate their product Versant into the Dash and Dash Pro. This integration will provide a better audio experience while talking to someone during a phone call. Versant will recognize the difference between your voice and the ambient sound around you so the person on the other end of the call thinks you’re in an office environment even if you’re walking down a busy New York street. That’s something I’ll have to test soon. Audio call quality has been another pain point for Dash users. The Dash is able to do that noise reduction by using a microphone that’s in your ear canal in addition to the microphone on the outside of the device. It’s similar to how smartphones use multiple microphones around the device to do the same thing.
The Dash Pro will ship with the same accessories as the original Dash with a few changes. Many users wanted foam ear tips to get a better seal than the provided silicone ear tips and sleeves were able to provide. Bragi is now including 3 pairs of foam ear tips for different sizes as well as a new silver/metal color for the sleeve and the teal material on the inside (see sleeve photo at the top of the page).
Dash Pro Tailored by Starkey
Bragi has teamed up with Starkey, the leader in the hearing aid field, to provide a custom shell for your Dash Pro. You can visit a local Starkey location to have a silicone mold taken of your ear, that mold is scanned, refined, and 3D printed layer by layer to give the user a custom fit. That custom fit and better seal will provide even more enhanced sound than by just using a foam or silicone ear tip. As they said during the live stream, it takes no more than 15 minutes to get the ear molds. I had my molds taken during the event, and it was an easy, painless process. Nikolaj even asked me about it during the live stream haha.
Release Dates & Pre-order
You can order the Dash Pro and the Dash Pro tailored by Starkey on Bragi’s website now, and the Dash Pro will be in retail locations such as Best Buy and Brookstone in the coming weeks. The tailored version will be available at over 3,000 hearing professional locations in the US and Canada. You can purchase the Dash Pro for $329 and the tailored version for $500. Orders will ship within 2 weeks. The Dash Pro is $30 more than the original Dash, but with all of the enhancements I’d say it’s worth it. The Dash Pro tailored by Starkey’s price is a bit much to swallow. However, that price does include the custom molding process, manufacturing/assembly of the unit, and during your fitting if something isn’t right Starkey will go back and fix it until it is.
That’s the whole event. After the presentation the rooftop area was opened to us so we could talk with the Bragi, IBM, and Starkey representatives. We were able to try out the Dash Pro and the new features. I was able to talk with Nikolaj for a few minutes to get some additional information. The original Dash and Dash Pro use the same charging base, so you can charge either product with either case. During the Bragi OS 3 video I noticed that it said OS 3 supports iOS and Android. Bragi has been a strong supporter of Windows 10 on traditional computers, tablets, and phones since the Kickstarter stretch goal was reached. Unfortunately, Bragi’s Windows support is ending. It isn’t cost effective to support the small number of users using the Bragi app on Windows devices. You can still use the Dash and Dash Pro as headphones, but you will need to use an Android or iOS device to activate the new features. Thankfully once you activate features like 4D menu they stay enabled even if you’re not connected to your phone.
I mentioned my interest in the Slim Glasses and how it seemed like they could be a slimmed down version of Hololens. Nikolaj had a smile across his face, but that was all of the information he was willing to provide for now. I will say that Nikolaj is one of the most genuine people I’ve met. The way he talked about tearing up when he learned how the Dash helped someone overcome an obstacle in their life, or the personal insights such as his wife enjoys that he is riding his bike to work made the event much more personal and not cold and calculated like larger tech companies. It’s a refreshing change.
What feature are you looking forward to? Are you planning on getting the Dash Pro or upgrading from your original Dash? Let us know in the comments below.