Crowdfunder of the week: Intelligent earbuds that respond to your actions

Music snobs agree. When it comes to audio ear buds, there’s always been – and still is – huge room for improvement. With sound generally poor and functionality limited, standard off-the-shelf earbuds would never be described as ‘smart’. In Idealog-speak, it’s a product ripe for innovation.

Good news then that a Kiwi has taken up the challenge.

Software designer and engineer Dhaval Tanna has developed a great-sounding set of earbuds that feature a range of ‘smart’ features, like motion-sensitivity, instant ‘hands free’ pausing and resumption, and even a ‘do not disturb’ button for too-often interrupted desk-jockeys.

He’s currently hoping to start full-scale production – if he can successfully finance the process through crowdfunding.   

Tanna says the idea came to him when he was discussing common workplace frustrations with his friends.

“I had met up with some friends in San Francisco,” he says. “They are programmers and they were describing the frustration that, when they’re working – they might be listening to a podcast for example – and someone will come over and tap them on the shoulder. They are constantly getting interrupted. I started proposing solutions and everyone started getting excited.”

The ear-buds, dubbed SenCbuds, use an embedded proximity sensor, which uses sensing technology to detect when the user inserts the earbuds into their ears or takes them out. The earbuds automatically pause whatever audio is playing, then resume at that point when they are reinserted into the ear.


Image: Software designer and engineer Dhaval Tanna

Tanna says that in addition to solving the ‘interruption problem’, he also wanted to address his frustrations around cross-platform compatibility.

“After coming up with the original idea, I had started putting a features list together of what I wanted. It had also annoyed me that often these sorts of headsets don’t work across devices, so that was something I wanted to address.”

The SenCbud controller works with most Android, Apple and Windows smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Tanna says he also insisted that the sound quality be second to none, while still sitting in a mid-market price category.

Starting a year ago, Tanna says the process – from inception, to initial funding (financed by family and a house-backed bank loan), design to manufacture to crowdfunder – has been a long one.

“It’s been an extremely difficult project” he says. “I’ve had moments where I thought ‘Man, I can’t do this’, but I just can’t give up.”

“It has definitely been a learning process and I’m still learning. It’s been a rollercoaster ride.”

The earbuds cost US$45 for the standard version and US$70 for SenCbuds Plus, which comes with the ‘do not disturb’ and noise isolation options. This is a discounted early bird price.

SenCbuds can be pre-ordered through the SenCbuds website, or via the crowd-funding website Indiegogo, for delivery in May.