Sometimes, a good sales pitch can begin with a story. What follows is a story about someone I met at the recent CSUN13 conference. If you can stay with me until the end, I will try to make it worth your while.
One morning during the conference week while sitting alone at the Grand Hyatt Starbucks, at a tiny table adjacent to the busy lobby coffee bar, a voice said, “Excuse me, Mind if I join you?”
I looked up. “Of course not,” I answered, hurriedly clearing away the detritus of my coffee and muffin. “Thanks,” he said. “Tables are at a premium here.”
We introduced ourselves, and he asked if I was attending the conference. I said yes, then realized that I had not noticed that he was using a service dog, nor did he seem to have a white cane. “Are you?” I asked. “Are you exhibiting? A vendor?”
“Not exactly,” he explained. “But I’m here to market my product to the blind community. Here. Let me show you.” Then, he placed something on the table in front of me. “It’s a pair of headphones,” he said.
I picked up a feather-light, super-streamlined piece of gear, noticing immediately that it resembled no pair of headphones I had ever seen. “They’re called bone-conduction headphones,” he continued. “Let me put them on you.” He placed the headphones around the back of my neck, placing what would normally be the portion worn over the ears at my temporal bone instead. Then, I experienced a surreal sensation. I was hearing both full volume music coming from the headphones, along with the ambient noise of the crowded coffee shop. I could…feel…the sound, while not only hearing it, but also being fully aware of the activity around me.
Dennis Taussig is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer VP of AfterShokz, a company that has produced the world’s first open ear bone -conduction headphones for runners, cyclists, sports enthusiasts, and now, thanks to the blind community, an ingenious application for us, too.
Originally, the technology was created by VoxTech, one of the leading companies in the world to supply this technology to the military. Dennis worked on a number of projects with the principle of Voxtech, and one day Dennis was contacted to find out if a consumer version of this technology was possible. Within months, a company was formed, and AfterShokz made it’s debut at the Consumer Electronics show )International CES in January, 2012.
AfterShokz bone- conduction headphones are ideal for anyone who wants to maintain situational awareness while still listening to important audio cues, such as that which is provided by text-to-speech GPS navigation devices. You can travel to your destination while hearing instructions from your iPad or iPhone, listen to music or a podcast while on a bus, or work out at the gym to your favorite motivational guru and still hear the tap of your white cane, the driver call out your bus stop, or your personal trainer counting off the reps. It’s a fascinating product, and Dennis credits the blind community with providing the ideas that expanded the business.
“I was getting calls from people who are blind,” says Taussig. “And they kept asking if the headphones could be used with their Bluetooth devices for navigation.”
Since his exposure to the disability community, Dennis has gone “all in” with respect to his commitment to accessibility. He volunteers at Syracuse University working with disabled students, and he has assisted educators to enable their blind students to learn math by providing the headphones so that the students can hear their screen reader and the professor at the same time. “They’re not cut off from the teacher, nor the teacher from them,” Dennis explains.
The sonification lab at Georgia Tech has conducted a study on teaching systems for blind students, who are learning math graphing using audio.
AfterShokz is providing equipment for the testing, enabling the students to hear the sonification and teacher at the same time.
Dennis wants these headphones to be available to all of us, and he is so emphatic that they should not be financially out of reach that he has permitted me to offer my readers a generous discount towards the purchase of AfterShokz. Go to the AfterShokz web site at www.aftershokz.com and choose from one of several models. If you’d like to be able to make/take calls, order the Sportz M2 which features a microphone. If you require a headset that isBluetooth compatible, choose Bluez. Enter LL40 at checkout, and you’ll get 40% off the price. No, I do not financially benefit, I just want my readers to experience the AfterShokz phenomenon. Since I know my geek friends love a good technical specifications deck, just write to me using the accessible contact form on the page, and I’ll send you product data sheets on the different models, along with spec info.
Don’t forget to enter LL40 when you check out to save some serious coin.