About this project
"Skybuds are like a Swiss army knife for all your phone needs: Wireless earbuds, hands-free calls, a battery pack smartphone case and a charging/docking station for your earbuds when you're not using them." - Mashable
"Skybuds—the result of a collaboration between ECCO Design and Alpha Audiotronics—takes things a couple steps further than just delivering great sound, by incorporating the earphones into a storage and charging system aimed to seamlessly fit into a user's existing behavior." - Core77
"The kernel-shaped buds are waterproof and ergonomically designed to fit snugly and stay put, no matter how intense your workout or jam session." - CityLab
"Skybuds themselves use top-of-the-line, balanced armature speakers, passive noise cancellation and psychoacoustic algorithms to give each of your ears access to best-in-class sound whether you’re listening to your favorite new track or conference calling with the boss." - Cool Material
- Earbud Body Dimensions: 14.0mm (h) x 14.8mm (w) x 20.0mm (l)
- Weight: 5.5 grams
- Fit Style: In ear
- Ultra lightweight, water resistant and sweatproof
- Nanoplated exterior
- Dual Mode Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth Classic (A2DP Profile, CSR aptX® audio codec) and Bluetooth Low Energy
- Near Field Magnetic Induction ("NFMI") chip and coil
- Lithium-ion 50mAh battery, rechargeable
Skybuds presented a unique challenge from a size standpoint. We needed to create an earbud that fit comfortably in everyone’s ear that, at the same time, was small enough to fit into a smartphone case while minimizing bulk. The design needed to be functional, simple and elegant. We began by extensively analyzing ears to figure out the various shapes, sizes and fit points.
An ergonomic fit was our first key parameter and focus. We conducted hundreds of ear size tests and studies and even mapped out many of the ears in 3D so that we could conduct thorough analyses through CAD to understand shape.
After we developed an understanding of the ear shape and size, we spent months figuring out the most comfortable and secure shape for the earbud. We incorporated a significant amount of components into an extremely small form factor. After dozens of different ID prototypes we found a design that securely and comfortably fits in nearly every ear.
Finally, we were able to arrive at a shape that our studies indicated would fit the vast majority of people's ears.
Skybuds fit into your ears differently than other earbuds. Below is a video of how to wear Skybuds.
- Case Dimensions: 10.9-18.7mm (h) x 71.6mm (w) 163.9mm (l)
- Case Weight: 1.78 oz
- Fits iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S models
- Lithium-ion rechargeable Battery; 1000 mAh battery
- USB Type A female connector
- Bluetooth Low Energy Frequency Response: 20 - 20,000 Hz
- Passes drop test and all other MFi requirements
- Shock resistant
Our design objective for the case was to minimize size. A design with minimal bulk was imperative - if users felt encumbered by our case, they would balk at our value proposition. A tapered design, unique among phone cases, allows for the phone to lie naturally flat on a table while still providing a thicker portion at one end for the earbuds. We spent a significant time studying the angle of the taper so that the phone screen was still fully visible when in a resting position on a flat surface.
We faced the unique challenge of finding a solution in which Skybuds and the case could seamlessly live together. We carefully studied and tested the most natural way consumers would interact with earbuds and designed a patented, minimal bulk case that solves these issues. After numerous UX studies, we
- Determined that the most natural earbud orientation was at the base of the phone (studies indicated ~86% of users felt this was the natural position) and
- Designed a protective enclosure that would provide easy access to the earbuds. Each aperture has a reinforcing metal ring to fortify the structure and shield the earbuds during drops.
Furthermore, we incorporated a mechanical “push-push” design which successfully pops out and locks the earbuds during removal/insertion while still accommodating every finger type (e.g. long nails).
We reimagined the experience of interacting with your headphones. We wanted to make this the best experience we possibly could so we selected top-of-the-line, cutting-edge components, coupled with proprietary algorithms for optimized UI/UX and audio quality.
From a system architecture standpoint, we use a combination of Bluetooth Classic, BLE, NFMI and electrical contacts to ensure reliable communication throughout our system.
Earbud - Earbud Communication: Sending a stereo audio stream to 2 earbuds isn't possible using the standard A2DP profile (it's a point-to-point relay system) so we implemented a technology called Near Field Magnetic Induction. Each earbud has a coil, the primary earbud modulates a tight, low-power, non propagating, localized magnetic field which is measured by the receiver coil in the other earbud.
Earbud - Phone Communication: We implemented a new finishing technique known as selective nanoplating. Nanoplating is a coating process that deposits multiple-micron thickness layers of metal onto the exterior surfaces. A nanoplated finish significantly improves the RF performance of the internal BT Classic and BLE antennas. We used an anechoic chamber to make sure that performance meets consumer standards.
We wanted to give our consumers the best sound possible, so we incorporated in each Skybud:
- a balanced armature driver that was bigger than the typical ones used in in-ear earbuds (for higher SPL level and range) and
- a digital MEMS microphone that picks up sound clearly either for microphone use during a call or for passive noise cancellation.
Our team spent eight months architecting, developing, and building our first batch of working prototypes ("ES I").
We found that the antenna performance in ES I was not meeting our standards so we switched over to an NFMI solution when we started developing ES II in July.
With help from our ODM, we locked down a design, schematics, and layout and have begun building ES II. Results look good and we are excited to receive and test ES II prototypes later this autumn.
Alpha Audiotronics Inc., (“Alpha”) is a team passionate about conveniently delivering wireless sound.
We love music and technology. We like to experience the world with our own personal soundtrack to match our moods and actions, which are constantly changing. We are constantly on the go, juggling busy schedules and belongings and wanting things to be faster, smoother and more streamlined. But the wires, physically and literally tying our music and listening experiences, were slowing us down and inhibiting our freedom.
We want to enhance the listening experience by removing wires. Our products give customers newfound mobility, comfort and access to sound. We provide unencumbered audio the way it was meant to be heard. Wherever. Whenever.
We have managed to aggregate enough resources to cover development, BUT we need YOUR HELP in:
- Finalizing and configuring tooling and fixtures
- Applying for certifications and approvals
- Purchasing materials for 1st mass production build
- Growing our team
Help us share Skybuds with the world using #skybuds or #freeyoursound
Risks and challenges
Skybuds takes existing technologies and combines them together in a novel way. We've partnered with a tier 1 global manufacturer and with an experienced team of engineers.
We have already completed a vast amount of the critical design, mechanical, electrical and firmware engineering and have built functional prototypes that we’ve been testing on users and friends.
However, some of the components used are brand new and not found in any existing products. This leads to the possibility of unforeseen bugs and supply chain risk.
The Alpha team is an execution-oriented team and confident in our ability to reach our goal. We understand that you’re trusting us to deliver on our promise. We value integrity and will conduct our business at the highest ethical standards.
We will provide transparency throughout our process (during and after Kickstarter) so that you can follow along and help us out.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Our case will initially be available for the iPhone 6 and 6s. We will expand and provide cases for other phones in the future.
After Kickstarter, we will send you a survey in which you can indicate whether you want Skybuds and case for the iPhone 6/6s in May 2016 or get the Skybuds and case for the iPhone 7 when later available.
We have conducted hundreds of fit tests across a wide range of ear shapes and sizes and will offer multiple silicone tip sizes. We have worked with our product designers to achieve a 2 standard deviation ergonomic model, which means that ~95% of all people will have a secure fit based on our sample size. While we cannot guarantee that Skybuds will fit all ears, we are confident that Skybuds will fit nearly every ear securely and comfortably.
We know how important it is to have earbuds that actually fit and securely stay within your ears. In order to make sure Skybuds stay within your ears, we have conducted multiple vigorous tests, not limited to long active workouts and wildly dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”. Please see the GIF of our very own Charlie in “The Fit: How We Got Here” section above.
Put Skybuds inside our custom smartphone case, which has an extra battery to provide your Skybuds with extra juice throughout the day. If you have depleted your case battery, put the Skybuds into the case and plug in the case to an outlet or computer using the USB cable.
If you place the Skybuds back into the case after use, you should always have them with you and you should not lose them. If you do, however, the Skybuds App will help you track a missing Skybud. If you still cannot find a Skybud, you will be able to order a la carte replacement buds from www.skybuds.com.
Skybuds will last for 3-4 hours of continuous music play or call talk time. As soon as you place Skybuds back into the case they will automatically begin recharging if there is battery left in your case.
The battery is designed so that you can choose to charge your phone, Skybuds or both. Simply download the app and decide where you want to send your extra charge.
The battery in the case provides 50+% extra juice to the phone only or recharges your Skybuds for at least an additional 25 hours or a combination of both.
When developing Skybuds, one of the four things we prioritized was sound quality. We are music lovers and know the importance of excellent sound quality. We put into Skybuds the best components – some of which weren’t even yet available in the market and had to be specially made. These include top-of-the-line, American-designed speakers, psychoacoustic algorithms to deliver robust bass, and digital MEMs mics that provide for passive noise cancellation and clarity. Skybuds will free your sound without compromising audio quality.
Yes, they are!
Yes, just put the other Skybud into the case and it will turn off and start recharging. You can use either bud (without the other) for listening to your music or as a Bluetooth headset for your phone calls.
Skybuds+Case are our very first product, and we have a whole product line planned for the future. While you can use the earbuds without the case, at this point in time, you will still need the case to charge your earbuds.
Yes! Skybuds will connect to any Bluetooth certified device.
Yes, you can simply activate Siri while using Skybuds and the microphone on the Skybuds will pick up your commands for Siri.
Given our limited resources, we’ve decided to focus our time and energy on creating Skybuds for the iPhone and iOS. Skybuds will still be able to connect to any Bluetooth enabled phone, but the case will not fit. After our initial launch, we plan on offering cases beyond just the iPhone 6 and 6S as well as creating Android and Windows apps.
Alpha has a global replacement warranty of 1 year and it covers any manufacturing issues. If you are not satisfied with Skybuds and the custom charging case, you will be able to return the product within 14 days.
Yes, the Skybuds+Case solution is protected by several granted utility patents.
At this point, we are not establishing partnerships. We are happy to discuss partnerships further after we complete our Kickstarter campaign.
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