This year, instead of capitalising on the interest of wearables – or lack of – Sony has opted in favour of a reinvention of an old favourite.
Launched at Mobile World Congress, the Xperia Ear is a small, Bluetooth-connected, voice-controlled personal assistant that sits in your ear. The Xperia can take calls, send messages, get traffic updates, read out social media posts, take diary appointments, check the weather and provide directions.
Scarily, it seems the film ‘Her’, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, is becoming fast becoming a reality.
The film depicts a world where we have really very little interaction with those around us, turning machines into our friends and assistants – a man slowly falls in love with the artificially intelligent voice in his headset.
Defending the product from those who say it’s ‘just trying to make the Bluetooth headset cool again,’ Sony complained society has become ‘less human’ as people give more and more attention to their mobile devices, rather than the world around them.
Aside from the similarities to a film which acts as a warning on how our relationship with technology could evolve – it shows Sony is thinking logically about consumer needs and the experience of using the Xperia.
Have you ever wanted to send an urgent text but you’re carrying coffee and your bag? Do you get carsickness from reading? Need to know the latest whilst on the move? It all makes sense; it will help consumers look up from our apparent addiction with screens.
So is it hard to think of it taking off?
I don’t know. What I do know is that mobile strategy will change, because consumer’s relationship with tech will change. Consumers will go from touch to voice recognition and from looking to hearing. Sensory marketing will become more of a trend. The down side is that if the Xperia goes mainstream, there will be more devices to cater for – wearables, hearables, tablets, phones and desktops of varying degree.
Voice recognition is something that hasn’t gone mainstream yet, despite a big push from brands such as Google. It seems that talking to our devices in public doesn’t sit right amongst consumers yet. Last year Google even tried to normalise voice recognition for us with a series of amusing videos entitled ‘Google Duel,’ where two lads battled it out to see which words they could get Siri to say.
Will talking to your device become normal? Maybe, but when (and if) it does that is when hearables will really take off and then brands must consider how to make deeper, more engaging connections with their consumers through the power of sound as a part of their mobile strategy.
Ryan Hall is managing director at Nice and managing partner at Karmarama