Sometimes a piece of new technology needs a second look before it can be truly understood. This is certainly the case with the new SoundWear Companion Speaker by Bose, which graduated from the lower leagues of bemusement and ridicule by the IBTimes UK tech desk, to understanding and even admiration.
Described as being both hands-free and ear-free, the SoundWear is essentially a pair of high-quality headphones that rest on your shoulders instead of your head.
They don't cover your ears, so we'd advise against wearing them on a busy train (or in public at all, if we're being honest), but instead direct sound towards your head.
After at first dismissing the product as an elaborate hoax or a far-out concept intended to start a conversation – unlikely, given they have a recommended retail price and can be bought today – we now absolutely get it. We can see the SoundWear giving you high-quality music but without the discomfort from wearing headphones all day, and the exclusion from other sounds around you.
We sometimes listen to podcasts or the radio while walking around our home with a smartphone in our pocket. The sound quality and volume on offer is good enough for spoken word, but less-so for music. The SoundWear takes this practice, which is probably more common than we first realised, and boosts the quality.
There are three buttons on the side of the device for controlling volume and pausing music. Pause when your Bluetooth-connected phone rings and the call comes through to the SoundWear. A press of the same button also lets you talk to Siri, should you connect the speakers to an iPhone or other compatible Apple product.
Bose even suggests in a marketing video how the speakers can be worn while driving, bringing Bluetooth connectivity and high-quality audio to older cars that may lack these features.
Bose claims the sound is delivered by two speakers then distributed via two 11-inch 'waveguides' that run along the entire length of the SoundWear, surrounding the wearer with noise.
With the sound pointed at your ears, Bose claims people stood just a few feet away will not be disturbed by the music you play, although we'll have to try the device out for ourselves to confirm that claim.
Priced at $300 (£220) and available in the US now (UK pricing and availability has not yet been revealed), the SoundWear lasts for 12 hours on a charge, vibrates to notify you of incoming calls and is resistant to sweat and "a little rain".