LAS VEGAS, Nev. (TheStreet) -- When it comes to wearables, you'd be forgiven if you didn't immediately think of headset-maker Plantronics (PLT - Get Report) . But chances are you've stuck a Bluetooth headset in your ear to place calls or listen to music. What if those headsets could do more -- say, double as a pedometer or unlock a door?
Most commonly associated with its functional earpieces, Plantronics is looking to make its audio technology the centerpiece of the wearable movement. The 50-year-old company is using the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nev. to demo its next-generation conceptual Bluetooth headset appropriately dubbed the "Wearable Concept 2."
Plantronics developed the Concept 2 prototype device as a near replica of of its popular Voyager Legend headset, but also packed in a variety of sensors and motion-tracking capabilities meant to prove to developers that the next big thing in wearables doesn't have to live on your wrist. So, for instance, the headset includes sensor data for compass heading, angular velocity, and acceleration. It also comes with software development kits for mobile and desktop to help third-party developers concoct real-world apps that take advantage of these earpiece extras.
"This is a wearable." Erik Perotti, a senior product manager working on the Concept 2 technology, told TheStreet. "You're already wearing our devices. We can track additional information so you don't need your Jawbone [Up] or Fitbit."
Though, surely, when it comes to the practicality of wearing a wearable, consumers are far more likely to wear a wristband than an earpiece all day, right? "I disagree," Perotti said. "People are wearing [our headsets] nine hours a day."
The Concept 2 comes from PLT Labs, Plantronics' incubator for testing new technologies that could find their way into the Bluetooth headsets it sells direct to consumers. It's basically a souped-up version of the existing Voyager Legend that can track your head and body movements in three dimensional space for something potentially useful, though what that is remains to seen.
Plantronics executives, however, set up shop in a suite at the Delano hotel in Las Vegas to demonstrate firsthand the power of its conceptual earpiece. Periotti used the headset to wirelessly unlock a door using voice commands. He also wirelessly connected the Concept 2 with an iPad in a remote location to pass data from his device and control a telepresence robot, which would allow for a video call on steroids. Periotti gave the example of using this setup to control a robot and remotely converse with family at Thanksgiving dinner, with each head movement allowing him to direct communication to a different family member at the table.
For now, the second-generation device is just a proof of concept the company is handing out to developers who can tackle the hard work of figuring out why you'd want a compass or pedometer in your ear in the first place.
--Written by Jennifer Van Grove in Las Vegas, Nev.
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