“Find a need and fill it,” as the old saying goes. In this case, the need is your ear, and it’s the method of filling that’s deserving of a little bit of attention. OwnPhones, a headphone startup launching on Kickstarter, feels that the current landscape of headphones isn’t filling our ears to the extent we deserve, and to that end it wants to make a custom-fitted, 3d-printed set of earbuds perfectly shaped to your individual ear canal.
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OwnPhones is the brainchild of Itamar Jobani, a former sculptor and fashion designer that made his first foray into technologically-enhanced apparel via a 3D-printed dress. That project proved a bit difficult to bring to scale, but it got him thinking about form and function in an era of ultimate customization.
“I started running a lot, and every earphone I had kept falling out of my ears,” he told Forbes. “and it was like, what can I do to make it better?”
The theoretical advantages should be clear — headphones that stay perfectly nestled in your ear canal without uncomfortable pressure. And because the whole operation runs on bluetooth, there are no wires to get in the way. In many ways, the final product has a way of looking like a combination of a hearing aid and a current-era bluetooth headset.
The process starts by scanning your ear with an smartphone app — nothing more than the onboard camera required. On top of that, you can add an ergonomic simulator that takes into account your typical activities, be they running, parkour or sitting on the couch playing video games, and the design will attempt to predict how your particular headphones will respond to those situations and adapt accordingly. From that, you send your data back to OwnPhones and they print you a set of earbuds — aesthetic flourishes on the outside come extra. Jobani says that he’s had interest from pop performers looking to make their headsets less of a mechanical necessity and more of a fashion statement.
It’s hard to know how well they actually work — I didn’t have any buds fitted to my ears to test them with — but it’s a tantalizing idea, if successful. After all, our current era of personal electronics revolves around tailoring our digital experience to our lives exactly, and it’s not hard to imagine a certain future where we’ll find it ridiculous if our headphones are not made for us and us alone. There’s some time yet to see how it all works out — the Kickstarter launches in July, so anyone eager to get in on a particular vision of the audio accessory future can hop on board then.