Wearhaus wants to crowdfund its dream, its vision: to create a brand of social headphones that let you share music with other wearers nearby. Essentially, it wants to make the world a silent disco, a world where people can choose to share music between Wearhaus headphones directly, without wires, perhaps creating meaningful interactions, friendships and more.
As you can imagine, at Engadget we receive countless emails pitching crowdfunding campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Some ideas are great, but, equally, most are lousy. Much more common are those ideas that are merit-worthy, if a little optimistic about the magnitude of the problem they are solving. Wearhaus' idea is definitely not lousy. It's way above merit-worthy, but is it overly optimistic? I'd love to say it wasn't.
I personally love the idea. It's fun, sanguine -- utopian almost. I totally get it. I can see a future where flashmob-style silent rave-ups occur organically in cafes, where subway sing-alongs burst out of silence, where foot-tapping friends share their latest music in secret and in plain sight at the same time. Wearhaus has a vision, and it's looking to crowdsourcing to make it happen. Sadly, I can't see it catching on.
I can see a future where flashmob-style silent rave-ups occur organically in cafes, where subway sing-alongs burst out of silence, where foot-tapping friends share their latest music in secret and in plain sight at the same time.
Look on the street at the number of different headphones you see. All colors, brands, sizes and (importantly) prices. Headphones are a hot commodity right now (as recent industry chatter clearly illustrates), but cases like Beats are rare. Dr. Dre's isn't the only brand you'll commonly see adorning ears, but the names that enjoy the level of market penetration Wearhaus needs for its "Arc" social headphones to work are rare. While I love the idea that friendships and interactions could arise through this technology, I fear they won't. People want to wear their headphones, not be limited to one type or brand just to obtain one feature (that, in turn, relies on mass adoption).
There's hope, though. What would make me love my own headphones more, Wearhaus, is having your social feature baked in. Patent it if you can/haven't already, and definitely license it. Make this one of the featured highlights you see on the front of all wireless headphone packaging -- somewhere way above the frequency response and the supported codecs. In big, silver writing. Let your idea explode into something dramatic by setting it free across different brands; don't chain it to a fence post.
Let your idea explode into something dramatic by setting it free across different brands; don't chain it to a fence post.
Let the established brands do all the hard work -- the costly manufacturing part. You can sit back and collect a royalty, and users can simply choose to download the app if they want to make use of the feature. Like Highlight or, screw it, even Tinder for music lovers... with a bit of a disco thrown in. For your idea to really reach meaningful levels of impact, the number of people wearing the Arc would need to be significant. I worry that beyond a few metropolitan areas, the social feature would be hobbled by a lack of people with the right headphones. Lovely as it would be for you to shift enough units for that to be so, several years of obsessively monitoring what headphones people on public transport use tells me that this is something that even Sony, Sennheiser or Beats would struggle to make viable.
People are obviously into the idea, as your self-hosted funding seems to be going well. I imagine there's still a very good chance you'll meet your target. But, if you really love your idea, set it free. License it; work with partners; make headphone networking a standard feature (I'm assuming there's no copyright issues with sharing music this way?). I'd buy a pair of headphones that had this feature. But, as lovely as the Arc looks, everyone's got their own style, just like everyone's got their own taste in music, and locking your idea into your own hardware feels like caging a falcon.
As for those that think I'm wrong? You can prove it by funding the campaign directly right here.