What's on Your Head?

Convergence Corner

What's on Your Head?

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  December 08, 2015

TMC (News - Alert) recently held the latest of its semi-annual editors days, this time in Santa Clara, Calif. The trip to the left coast left me with a number of impressions that warrant mentioning.

The first is that San Francisco 49ers fans are a fickle group, as it was clear there were more than a few empty seats in a game against the Atlanta Falcons, which, at the time, boasted a 6-2 record. The Niners went on to beat the Falcons, 17-16. In hindsight, I should have taken an earlier flight and enjoyed the game from state-of-the-art Levi’s Stadium. 

Now, on to two days of meetings for our team with local tech businesses – take a look at all the video interviews (click on the Editors Day Santa Clara 2015 link on the left side).

One of the people I had a chance to catch up with was Beau Wilder from Plantronics (News - Alert). Beau has spoken at TMC’s Wearable Tech Expo and is always an interesting conversation because the company – which calls itself the original wearable tech business – crosses several different market segments, from unified communications to call centers to wearable tech. Wilder says that’s entirely by design.

The Voyager Focus UC unit, for instance, is one of its latest products, designed for workers in today’s open workspace environments, which can often present challenges to effective concentration. The active noise cancelling makes it easy to drown out ambient noise while working or on calls, and also provides high-quality audio for times when the personal jukebox is in demand. More and more, I see workers in similar environments tuning out noise and tuning into work with the help if their personal playlists. The ability to switch between music and calls makes it a convenient unit, and though it’s larger than a single over-ear headset, it can be used on the road for taking calls in the car or on the train.

Plantronics also prides itself on having hooks into many of the UC and OTT apps that people use during their work week, allowing seamless integration of UC applications and other OTT apps.

“We are definitely focused on playing a role in users’ work and personal lives,” says Wilder. “We want to provide a product that will seamlessly transition with you throughout the day.”

One of the interesting things the company is working in its PLT Labs is the integration of full nine-axis head tracking capability. The ability to know exactly where users are looking will allow it to build out new use cases and experiences for any number of business and consumer applications.

Incidentally, I’ve been using the Plantronics BackBeat PRO wireless headphones for a little while and have been thoroughly impressed by the product overall. While not the smallest set of headphones out there – in fact, it’s probably the largest I’ve used – the unit provides a comfortable fit, even for the duration of a transcontinental flight. Sound quality, of course, is a highly personal thing, but for my taste, I get good deep base and crisp highs. The volume control on one side is convenient, while the other provides a convenient back/forward skip feature. Battery life is remarkably long – lasting both legs of the trip (the company says it has a 24-hour battery life). And, if you do run low on battery power, it also features a standard headphone jack for a wired connection. Charging is quickly and conveniently done via a standard micro-USB port, and the unit folds flat for storage.

One of the most convenient features comes thanks to the embedded sensors, which recognize when the headset has been removed and pauses playback of audio or video, then starts again when the unit is placed back into position – no need to manually pause content to have a conversation. And speaking of conversation, the built-in mic also allows for calls to be taken while the headphones are in use, and with a published range of 100 meters, mobility is not an issue. The active noise cancelling is what you would expect. Nothing is perfect, but it does the job more than adequately. All in all, it’s a unit that easily competes with the other well-known brands in the same category.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere