Bragi Will Embed Hands-Free Voice AI Platform in Skullcandy Earbuds
Low-cost wireless earbud manufacturer Skullcandy will begin embedding a hands-free voice assistant in its products thanks to a new agreement with audio AI platform developer Bragi. The partnership will bring Bragi’s voice AI and connected app to Skullcandy’s wireless earbuds, which typically cost less than $100.
Voice assistants are usually only accessible on entry-level earbuds through a Bluetooth-connected smartphone, if at all. The arrangement with Bragi will allow Skullcandy earbud wearers to wake up their voice assistant without touching their phone, even if they are not connected to the internet, just by saying the right wake word. The same goes for answering or rejecting incoming phone calls. Skullcandy claims that this control is unique among independent earbud brands. The result gives Skullcandy earbuds the same functions and abilities as Google, Amazon, or Apple-branded earbuds, without choosing one of those brands for the earbuds.
The system-on-a-chip (SoC) was co-created by Skullcandy and Bragi to ensure the firmware, which relies on the Bragi operating system, can be updated remotely, allowing the companies to offer upgrades without the owner having to buy new earbuds every time. That’s what makes the hands-free access and customizable button functions for things like taking photos possible. The platform will come out across three new Skullcandy wireless products this year and bring brand new features like sharing audio from one set of Skullcandy earbuds to another set nearby.
“Skullcandy has earned our market-leading position due to a keen obsession with our consumer’s adventurous uses,” Skullcandy CEO Jason Hodell said. “Giving our fans the freedom to enjoy their content, control their earbuds and enable communications all without taking off their gloves or letting go of the handlebars is an exciting advancement for our brand.”
Bragi used to produce its owner hardware before selling off that part of the business in 2019 to focus on machine learning and AI. The company created an audio app store for its own and third-party tools like biometric checks, music services, and audio processing. Last year, Bragi teamed with smart sensing technology licensor CEVA to start working on a hearables platform combing Bragi’s OS and CEVA’s voice recognition and motion-sensing software. The arrangement with Skullcandy will give Bragi access to a huge potential userbase, all of those who want true wireless earbuds but would prefer to avoid hearables tied to specific voice assistants like the Amazon Echo Buds with Alexa, AirPods with Siri, Galaxy Buds Live with Bixby or Google Pixel Buds with Google Assistant.
“Skullcandy owns the sub-$100 segment in the U.S., commanding huge volumes and enabling us to deliver millions of Bragi-enabled earbuds to the market,” Bragi CEO Nikolaj Hviid said. “The partnership with Skullcandy is transformational to Bragi becoming a platform for headphones, just as Android and iOS are for smartphones.”