CES: Startup shows off smart headphones

LAS VEGAS — Your next set of headphones may come with a music service built in, no phone required.

That’s the vision of Aivvy, anyway. At the CES convention here, the Redwood City startup was showing off a device it has dubbed the world’s first smart headphones.

The over-the-ear, wireless headphones have a built-in WiFi radio that allows them to connect directly to the Internet via your home router whenever you plug them in to charge. Using that connection, they can download songs and playlists from the music service Aivvy is developing.

The earphones have twistable and touch-sensitive knobs on the outside of each earpiece that allow users to control the volume, skip songs with a swipe, “like” songs with a tap and change “channels” as they listen to music. Their rechargeable batteries will last 30 to 40 hours on a single charge, the company says.

Aivvy has signed a deal with Monster, the giant maker of video and audio cables, to offer a version of its earphones under Monster’s brand. The company is also planning on selling the headphones under its own brand.

Users will get a year’s subscription to Aivvy’s music service included with the headphones. With the subscription, users can load up to 8 “channels” or playlists on to their earphones with 40 to 50 songs each, company co-founder David Ring said. After a year, consumers can expect to pay $3 to $4 a month to continue to listen to the service, he said.

The headphones can also function as more traditional earpieces for smartphones and music players; users just have to connect them via a cord. However, while users will be able to play songs they own or playlists from other music services through Aivvy’s headphones, they won’t be able to store those songs or playlists on the earphones so they can listen to them without their phone around.

Also, Aivvy plans to offer its music subscription on a per device basis. Users will have to pay for a separate subscription to the service for each headphone they own.

Photo: Aivvy co-founder David Ring with his company’s smart headphones at the Monster booth at CES 2016. (Troy Wolverton/Mercury News)


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