Doppler Labs
The brilliant entrepreneurial audiophile minds at Doppler Labs are at it again. Less than six months after announcing a partnership with Goldenvoice to distribute 135,000 of their engineer-designed DUBS ear plugs to all attendees of Coachella 2015, they’ve reached another major milestone: $17 million raised towards the “Here Active Listening System” (or, simply, “Here”) in a Series B investment round.

Here is a “wireless interactive listening system” that allows you to customize the sounds of the world around you in real time via wireless ear buds and a smart phone app. Featuring an equalizer, sound effects, and custom presets utilizing both, users of the Here system will be able to alter the sounds coming at them every day, be it neutralizing a baby’s cries on an airplane or boosting the bass at a concert or festival. Beyond these utilitarian functions, users will be able to add flange, reverb, and echo to the sounds they hear. Here’s how the technology works, according to Doppler:

“The technology behind the Here system is fundamentally different from anything that has come before it. A series of signal processing algorithms target specific frequency ranges to modify sound as it enters your ears. Here captures the incoming sound waves, processes the audio in real-time and plays it back without any perceivable latency (e.g. in less than 30 microseconds, which is 1/10,000th the time it takes to blink your eye).

Doppler Labs’ design team architected the product with a form factor that is just as impressive as its technology. The size and shape of the Here buds mask the complexity of their many components. The completely wireless system automatically pairs the buds with the Here smartphone app through Bluetooth. The buds have up to six hours of battery life and the included charging case holds up to two full additional charges, providing more than enough power for use at a music festival or a cross-continental flight without the need for a power outlet. Three sizes of custom silicon tips help provide a secure and comfortable fit.”

Sound a little futuristic, even in the tech-soaked world we live in today? That’s kind of the point. In an interview with Business Insider, Doppler’s CEO Noah Kraft talked about the way the technology works and how the company aims to define and own this new world of cyborg-like “hearable” technology, using until-now comic book terms like “bionic hearing:”

Doppler Labs CEO Noah Kraft says his office isn’t intentionally loud, but the blaring car horns that drift up from the SoHo street below serve as a constant reminder that the world isn’t always sound-optimized. Kraft and his team hope to change that with new wireless earbuds he calls the first step toward bionic hearing.

Doppler Labs isn’t interested in blocking out all natural noise and pumping prerecorded sound into your ears. The team wants to change the sounds that are coming in. It wants you to customize your sonic world in exactly the way you want.

He wants people to start dreaming instead of doubting when they hear him throw around phrases such as ‘bionic hearing.’ This category of products has yet to be defined, and Doppler wants to be the one to do so. He wants Doppler Labs to own ‘hearables.’

After beating a $250,000 Kickstarter goal in less than a week (a fundraiser that eventually topped $635,000), Doppler announced additional funding from music giants Live Nation Entertainment, WME, and Universal Music Group. Now, with a $17 million investment round wrapped up, it looks like these reality-altering ear buds will soon become a reality for just about everybody. For now, though, the only people who will be able to try them are those early-adopters who thought to invest $199 in the Here Kickstarter (and a lucky few who receive private invites). Again, from Business Insider:

“…Kraft says [existing features] will be extensively developed during the “incubation” period, when the first version of the product will be available only to the 2,855 backers who pledged over $635,000 in a recent Kickstarter campaign. This stage will last through the end of 2015.”