Bragi Confirms Its Exit from the Hardware Business
Whatever brand of true wireless earbuds end up on my desk for review, I’ll inevitably be pitting them against the first product in this category that I’ve ever plugged into my ears—that’s Bragi’s The Dash, and The Dash Pro. The first to market with their insanely smart wireless hearable product, Bragi helped to define this concept of true wireless listening, but they did so in a way that—from an intelligence and feature standpoint—is still unmatched in my opinion.
That said, despite their early launch to market in 2016, Bragi quickly lost ground and eventually market share to the likes of Apple and Samsung, which makes the news of their exit from the hardware business not surprising, albeit no less tough to see.
First confirmed to Wearable on Monday, Bragi said that it has sold its product business to an unnamed third-party buyer in March. It will, though, continue to license its IP and AI technology in other products, none of which will be actually made by Bragi. CEO Nikolaj Havid told the publication that current Bragi device owners would continue to receive support through existing channels and that that will continue post-acquisition under the new owner, whoever that may be.
“Bragi's technology suite is applied beyond our own products to partners and headphone brands,” Havid said. “The Dash Pro featured groundbreaking ultra efficient AI and software that could be updated with new features such as Amazon Alexa, language translation and personalized hearing. With the sale of our product business, Bragi has completed its transformation into a software, AI, and IP licensing company.”
Though disappointing to its supporters, they shouldn’t shut the door on the company quit yet. Everything that Bragi has worked for to date has always been about the technology actually packed inside of those tiny wireless earbuds. One of the biggest things they’ve had going for them is that their earbuds were so intelligent and feature-rich. Havid himself told us at IFA 2017 that the company was only tapping into some 10-15 percent of the capabilities when it came to the sensors and other technology in their headphones. The headphones themselves, in his words then, were really just the vehicle of delivery—the way of getting their AI and other technology to the user, similar to how Apple might view the iPhone as the vessel for their mobile software platform, and so on. And a source close to the company recently confirmed to us that, as recently as CES 2018 where Bragi showed off some early-stage hardware applications of their technology that never made it to market, that was still the company’s way of thinking. They viewed the software platform and supporting AI as its real advantage over other hearables out in the market.
And diving into just the headphones themselves for a second, for those who may be unfamiliar, you can kind of get the sense as to just how impressive they are (were?). With the Bragi OS, users are able to use these powerful true wireless earbuds to track all kinds of fitness activity and health vitals—including heart rate. You could interact with them through a 4D menu that could sense which direction the user is looking. Gesturing with a nod or tapping on your cheek would allow you to make menu selections and interact with the headphones in other ways. And they had their own on-board computing technology and storage that could let you take music with you, on the road, without the need of a wirelessly tethered smartphone. They were waterproof, which allowed users to swim with them in and track laps in a pool. Oh, and they had access to Alexa, Siri, and more.
So, yea, the headphones were pretty impressive, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see Bragi’s technology start to pop up elsewhere throughout the consumer tech landscape. In fact, in a press release the company shared, they suggested that they could still work to get the Bragi platform onto tens of millions of headphones and speakers in the coming years. In the statement, Bragi announced a partnership with Asia Universal Technology that will see the two work together to accomplish just that.
“Together with Bragi we will dramatically change the functionalities and capabilities of hearable’s and audio products and deliver completed products to our customers,” Rick Tseng, CEO of Asia Universal Technology, said in the statement. “This partnership will provide end-to-end solution for customers seeking to ship innovative hearable, audio products.”
As for the sold off Bragi hardware business, there may be more to share once the identity of the company who bought the business is revealed.
Related story: UNBOXED: Reviewing the Bragi The Dash Pro Wireless Earbuds