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
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