The Apple AirPods.

AirPods Are The Beginning Of Apple’s Audio Augment Reality Platform.

credits and writed by : Brian Roemmele

Today (September 7th, 2016) marks the beginning of a new device platform centered around AirPods. Advanced bluetooth audio and the elimination of the 3.5mm audio jack. This is also Apple’s first big step into a Voice First platform centered around Siri.

Although many will focus on the first take on what AirPods mean, the long view is quite fascinating, indeed a true paradigm shift.




The Rise Of The Intelligent Headphone

The “dumb” headphones from the past simply relayed an audio signal from the primary device and did little more than mute, volume control, pause, etc. AirPods are intelligent computers in their own right and this portends to how this will become a new platform as did Apple Watch and Apple TV has become. This new audio platforms will do far more than relay sound, they will augment sound indeed they ultimately will build a foundation for Augmented Reality via voice powered AI and Siri.




The idea that Apple would remove the 3.5mm audio jack has a rich history here on Quora spanning back to 2011 [1] where I presented the inevitability of this shift to many angry and perhaps hostile otherwise well informed and insightful people. Like all radical change as I presented in 2011, like the RS-232 port, floppy disk, DVD player, tiny keyboards, etc. we forget we even had them at a point sooner than we can imagine.5


Clearly the 100 year old audio jack has served us well but from almost any perspective there is little defense to continue with this legacy jack. From water proofing to a thinned profile there are mechanical advantages. Additionally, the empty space of the 3.5mm connector, the space of the male plug was taking up, is extremely valuable real estate that ultimately allowed Apple to place the Taptic engine below the new virtual (non mechanical) home button. These are all good reasons, however there were bigger reasons to move on.

What Is The Technology Behind AirPods?

With AirPods Apple is moving to a platform that will augment reality in a material way by presenting Siri in a more direct and personal way, directly in your ears with a simple double tap to the Pod. The instant on-demand Siri information presented to you throughout the day will become as valuable as using the touchscreen on an iPhone. Having your calendar, notepad, text, tweets, email and of course interaction with phone calls and music. With a 5 hour battery life and a 15 minute quick charge giving a 3 hour boost that will allow for almost all day use with a minor break.

Meet The New Apple Processor The W1

From a technology perspective Apple has adopted a new method of transmitting and charging the AirPods based on technology developed by Passif [3] along with the new W1 chip set.




The W1 has optimized AI technology not just for presenting high definition audio but to filter out external noise via the new beamforming microphone technology Apple has created. These dual microphones will greatly aid Siri to discriminating user speech from surrounding conversations and noise. Apple also created the Voice Accelerometer to localize your voice and identify when you are speaking.7

Apple created a new Bluetooth pairing system on top of the existing current Bluetooth specification that allows for instant device pairing simply by tapping the AirPods to the iPhone. This technology also allows for instant hand-off to Apple Watch and some macOS computers. This pairing process is light years ahead of the process and steps needed to currently pair (and re-pair) devices.

The W1 Chip also uses smart technology to only activate when the built-in optical sensors and motion accelerometers play sound only when placed in the ear, greatly saving on battery life. AirPods come with a carrying case that also doubles as a charging dock and will sell for $159.00 in late October.



Brand Signaling: “I Own This Apple Device”

On October 23rd, 2001 Steve Jobs demonstrated a device that many thought was far outside it’s personal computer mission, an “mp3 music player”. This device was the iPod and presented an infrastructure that the iPhone was built on. One of the most important aspects of the iPod was something that companies that sold luxury products and services always understood, brand signaling [3]. Apple achieved this in a masterful way by the now iconic “Moon gray”/“Seashell gray”[4] (aka White) headphone cabling and ear buds.

Apple literally overnight was able to distinguish uniqueness, exclusivity, quality and brand communicated by the White headphone cabling and ear buds. Over night this became a fashion statement. By 2002 the phenomena could be observed in large cities as people proudly presented iPod ownership via the brand signaling that was build into something as simple as the color of the cabling.

By 2003 Susan Alinsangan, a Chiat/Day art director, came up with a design of the iPod silhouette [5] commercials. The silhouette advertising campaign featured dark silhouetted characters against brightly colored backgrounds. The silhouetted characters dancing in television commercials, backed by up-beat, energetic music holding iPods. The iPods and earphones appeared in white to stand out against the colored background and black silhouettes. They extended the concept and brand signaling to such a degree, the silhouetted characters themselves have become iconic.

Apple will continue the tradition of brand signaling with AirPods to a great effect. They will transmit a brand commitment and potentially a lifestyle choice that many associate with a notable brand. This may be one of the reason for the extension of the earbud with the white shaft. However this extension also accommodates the primary beam forming microphone.

AirPods: The Road To An Apple Voice First Device

Perhaps the most notable aspect history will record about the elimination of the 3.5 mm audio jack and the rise of AirPods will be the inception point of how AirPods formed the foundation of Apple’s first step into a Voice First device.

I presented a case for what I call Voice First in a question that proposed that Voice First systems like Alexa and Siri are “novelties” [6]. As you can see from the other answers to the question few agreed with me. However with the release of AirPods, Apple has signaled the first step in to a Voice First world center around an in-ear device.

AirPods Are A New Device Platform

AirPods are truly self contained computers that soon will have their own apps primarily centered around the Siri Intent Domains [7] but at some point beyond this. A rich development environment will grow arounds Siri and intend to unique features that only in-ear devices like AirPods can create. The double tap to activate Siri will over time become one of the most powerful aspects to AirPods and it’s successors. At some point this will morph into an entire device platform of its own and ultimate require less or no tethering to an iOS device or a computer. It all started with AirPods.

I have asserted that in the next 10 years 50% of computer interactions will be via Voice, with AirPods, we are accelerating this journey.

Why are AirPods important? They will begin to change everything we think is a computer faster than most could imagine.



credits and writed by :  Brian Roemmele

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