Bragi Sells Dash to Continue Focus on Software
Bragi, which designs, develops and sells wireless smart earphones, has sold off its hardware business to an unnamed party. Bragi CEO Nikolaj Hviid confirmed to Wareable that the company will continue to license its IP and AI, but it will not be making any new devices. Wareable also noted that in January Bragi’s online store went out of stock, and has yet to refresh. Bragi will be focusing on its machine learning platform, NanoAI now.
Bragi As We Knew It
Bragi began as a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and raised $3.3 million dollars by the end of its campaign. The company then launched Dash, the Headphones, and the Dash Pro wireless earbuds, positioning itself as a third party wearable company. The earbuds can run Bragi OS 3.0 or higher in order to access either a smartphone or computer’s voice assistant.
The Bragi Dash was in our eyes, the original hearable. It started out as a crowdfunding darling before actually coming out and winning back-to-back Hearable of the Year prizes at the Wareable Tech Awards, succeeded by the Bragi Dash Pro.
Bragi Has Pursued Software From the Beginning
Bragi began prioritizing its software products when in 2017 the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 was passed by US Congress in an effort to bring about a set of standards for OTC hearing aids that could be sold to people with “mild to moderate” impairment. This allowed hearable companies developing earbuds to market their products to people who fall under that level of impairment. The bill led to Bragi announcing Project Ears in 2018 in collaboration with Mimi Hearing Technologies, in order to add hearing enhancement features to its devices by creating software that could take “earprints.”
David Kemp, a Voicebot.ai hearables column contributor and Business Development Manager at Oaktree Products Inc, commented on the news,
I think that Bragi ran into the same issue that Doppler Labs did and that was that they entered the market too early. Bragi was a pioneer with developing hearables, but the use cases that the smart in-the-ear devices would ultimately support, such as smart assistant integration, were too immature when the company brought its first product, The Dash, to market in 2015. While the company had the right vision, it was plagued by hardware development issues, such as poor pairing with its devices, that were ultimately solved by the more simplistic AirPods, which Apple released in December 2016. The pivot away from hardware and toward licensing its software, primarily NanoAI, is an interesting move and positions Bragi to be the software that drives various edge-based computing solutions.
NanoAI is Now Bragi’s Biggest Focus
NanoAI was announced by Bragi in 2018, a machine learning platform, with a broad range of applications. At the time of its announcement, Bragi CEO Nikolaj Hviid told The Verge that Bragi was only interested in headphones to a point, as its real goal is to sell AI. Wareables reported this week that NanoAI is where Bragi will now be focusing itself. Hviid told The Verge in 2018,
It’s always been about AI and software. The headphones are a vehicle to show how it works. 70 percent of all our development is purely on AI and software. And it’s always been that.
Users can license NanoAI, train the system on relevant data, and use it to add intelligent features to their products. Hviid says the potential use cases for NanoAI are wide-ranging, including medical, industrial, automotive, wareables, agriculture, aerospace, and defense. A specific example given was for a power drill. NanoAI could be trained on a set of pressure or vibration data that lets the software learn what it is like to drill through different materials so that when the drill is being used it can alert the user what kind of material is approaching.
Very efficient AI is agnostic to a single use case.
According to Hviid, NanoAI’s focus on efficiency is to ensure the AI can run on simple devices, like wireless earbuds. The AI is meant to be able to run entirely on-device, too, providing privacy advantages and lower computing costs. “Very efficient AI is agnostic to a single use case,” commented Hviid. Bragi wants to expand beyond the niche hearables market and pursue larger revenue opportunities in other industry sectors. Hearables were merely the first step for the company to achieve a broader mission.