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Sony's new Xperia Ear lets in sounds from the outside world

You can hear your surroundings while accessing the Agent virtual assistant.
Billy Steele, @wmsteele
02.27.17 in AV
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Sony

Sony already debuted wireless earbuds with the Xperia Ear device last year. Here at MWC 2017, the company is showing off the next iteration of its virtual assistant-equipped audio gear. For now, Sony is calling the new gadget the Xperia Ear Open-style Concept as the product is style in the prototype phase. Unfortunately, that means we aren't able to listen to it here at the show, but the company is still offering some details on the setup.

Gallery: Sony Xperia Ear Open-style Concept | 15 Photos

This new version of Xperia Ear uses "open-ear" audio tech Sony developed inside it's Future Lab incubator program. Essentially, the wireless earbuds let noise from the outside world in while you're wearing them. This probably sounds like a bad idea to most, but the feature will help keep you safe on a run or allow you to hear colleagues while listening to music and receiving app notifications in the office.

Details are scarce on the internals for now, but we do know that the combination of two spacial acoustic conductors and driver units beam sound directly in your ear canal. The earbud's speaker is circular with an open center to allow those environmental sounds to come through. It will be interesting to see how well this new design stays in place as the controls components are housed in a casing that wraps under your ear and sits behind it. Like the previous version, this Open-style Concept will feature Sony's Agent virtual assistant that's capable of recognizing both voice cues and head gestures to lend a hand with activities.

The company also has a new "Anytime Talk" feature that will reach existing Xperia Ear devices in the coming months. The tool will allow you to start a group conversation with a single button push or by moving your head a certain way without having to scroll through your contact list. Again, a beta version is coming to that first-gen Xperia Ear soon. Sony says its also working with the creators of the Line messaging app on "a new integrated voice experience." If Sony does decide to bring this new device to market, we'll likely get more info on pricing, availability and features soon enough.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.

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