Meet the Makers: Izumi Yagi, Xperia Ear “Open-Style CONCEPT” Product Planner
Aside from Xperia XZ Premium, the product generating the biggest buzz (and longest queues) on the Sony booth at MWC was Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT”.
Whereas Xperia Ear is designed to be worn in one ear, “Open-style CONCEPT” doubles things up, moving the mono experience to a stereo headphone set up.
So how do you hear anything while wearing the device? That’s where the ‘Open-style’ comes in…
To find out more (which we’re told to stress is still just a concept at this stage) we caught up with Izumi Yagi, Product Planner in our Smart Products division, based at our Tokyo HQ.
For those who have never read about or seen Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT”, can you explain the device?
Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” is a next-generation Xperia Smart Product – wireless stereo headphones which use Sony’s unique ‘open-ear’ audio technology. With this technology, the earpiece does not block your ear canal, so you can listen to music and receive notifications, all whilst enjoying and hearing sounds from the world around you.
Who is this type of experience aimed at?
It is for people who are active and on the move and have many face-to-face interactions with others every day, but want to stay in touch with the latest information and enhance their everyday lives. Also it is for casual and ‘everyday’ music listeners who want to enrich their lives – think cycling, commuting, or even at work – with background music.
What was your inspiration for the idea?
Xperia Ear, our in-ear personal assistant, was designed to bring a new way of communicating, without compromising on enjoying the world around you. It provided a “Hands-free. Eyes-free” communication experience allowing you to look up at the world rather than down at a smartphone.
As the next step, we’d like to provide “Ears-free” communication with Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” so that people can stay connected with the real world while still having that communication ability.
The traditional closed-type headphones are good tools to enjoy immersive listening, but with this device we have realised a totally new way of bringing music and communication into people’s lives.
How does the open-ear technology work – can users hear music and the world around them at the same time, or is it one or the other?
Both at the same time. The audio driver unit sits behind the ear and the sound generated by the driver unit is transmitted through the specially designed sound duct and projected into the ear. As a result, the sound from the driver unit is blended seamlessly with the sound from the surrounding environment, and provides you a completely new open-style listening experience (which means users can hear music and the world around them at the same time).
How do people react when they first try it? Shocked? Surprised?
People are very impressed and get excited when they try it for the first time. We saw many “wow” expressions at MWC 2017 and SXSW 2017, and we believe many people love this product. As proof, Xperia Ear “Open-style” received several media awards at MWC 2017 despite the fact it was unveiled as a concept. I was very happy to hear that some visitors commented that they can recognise the ‘Sony-ness’.
What was the biggest challenge during the design process? How did you overcome it?
We’d like Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” to be worn all the time, so one of the biggest challenges was to put lots of functions into the small unit. Plus it needs to be comfortable so we worked with the Sony audio team who are experts in ergonomics so that the device will be comfortable with various shapes and sizes of ears.
What is your favourite thing about Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT”?
Unlike traditional closed type headphones, and unlike the traditional ways of how you interact with smartphones, Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” does not block connection with the real world or force you to look down at a screen.
And not only can you stay connected to the real world, Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” even enhances the real world by a adding soundtrack to everyday life. If you wear Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” and walk around the town with background music, you can feel like you’re in a movie.
How close is Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” to becoming a reality like Xperia Touch?
We’re working hard to hopefully make it a reality – stay tuned!
We’re crossing our fingers for more news. Get a feel for how Xperia Ear “Open-style CONCEPT” blends music, ambient sound, and notifications here.