How Sony's New "Concept N" Ear-Free Headphones Work

Sony has debuted its headphones that you don't actually wear.

With thousands in Austin, Texas this week for the South by Southwest music festival, Sony introduced its latest headphones, which sit on the user’s neck and project sound to their ears without physically touching them.

Dubbed Concept N, Sony will no doubt hope they appeal to the type of person who likes to, say, take walks in the park, but also wants to hear any joggers bopping up behind them.

The bluetooth-connected device uses multi-directional speakers to shoot the sound upward so that only the user can hear what’s coming through the headphones. Those who have tried the device note that some sound does bleed through to the surrounding crowd, but ultimately blends into the background noise. While it doesn’t require earbuds to use, the device does come with an optional connected pair, which look like round disks and also allow users to hear the environment around them as media plays.

Other headphones such as open back and bone conduction headphones, which literally vibrate the bones in your head to transmit music, allow users to simultaneously listen to music and their surroundings. However, these devices ultimately still give the perception that you’re not paying attention when encountered with a face-to-face social interaction.

Concept N will come with a few interesting features, starting with voice control. And it comes with some some built-in software, like Accuweather and Yelp. (Feels like it’s going to take something special to get people to stop accessing those services on their phones and start doing it on their headphones.)

Sony Project N

A forward-facing camera also seems like a gimmick that won’t be used. This might not work because hardware bundled with a bunch of software rarely has — anybody who bought a laptop with a bunch of programs they deleted to free up space will know this already.

However, there is one feature that could be a game changer: fitness tracking. Kimberly at the SXSW booth told PC Magazine that it has a motion sensor that can track when you’re cycling.

With Apple looking to ditch the traditional headphone jack soon, consumers are going to be looking for exciting wireless options like these.

Some might point to the Kickstarter-backed Dash headphones as a better alternative, but at the end of the day it’s still an ear bud that’s going to slip out of a sweaty ear eventually.

Media via Sony