MWC 2017: Sony’s concept wireless earphones let ambient sounds enter ear canal

| Feb 27, 2017 11:09 PM EST

Sony’s new concept earphones upgrade its Xperia Ear wireless earphones by allowing users to hear sounds around them

Sony's wireless concept earphones could take on Apple's AirPods that were introduced with the iPhone 7 last September. This follows the Japanese company announcing its smart wireless headphones called Xperia Ear at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016. A new design of the wireless headphones lets them sit outside the ear so the user can listen to music, talk to people, and get audio input from the environment.  

 "Open-style concept" is the working name of the earphones. Sony announced the new earbuds at its WMC press conference. The goal of the technology seems to be preventing people from removing their earphones.

Sony's Future Lab Program developed the upgraded version of Xperia Ear, according to BGR. The motto of the new accessory is "Hands-free. Eyes-free. Ears-free."  

Prototypes of the new wireless headphones were displayed at MWC 2017. They include ultra-powerful "special acoustic conductors" and driver units that transmit sounds directly to the wearer's ear canal.

This idea has the same effect as the "audio passthrough" technology that is built into other wireless earphones. They allow users to interact with a digital assistant and listen to music while hearing the noise surrounding them.  

The units are clearly a work-in-progress project. They are based on possible game-changing tech that includes a somewhat large piece that sits behind the ear.

The concept earphones also do not fill the user's entire ear canal. This allows them to talk to people around them while wearing the units.

Xperia Ear owners will have to remove the earbuds in order to charge them. Sony did not provide information for estimated time to recharge them.

It did share that the "open-style concept" will feature the Sony Agent Technology virtual assistant that is included in the original Xperia Ear headphones. Like other concepts, however, it is not certain that the wireless earphones will be launched as a new product.

The Tokyo-based company has revealed it is upgrading its digital assistant. A new "Anytime Talk" feature makes it easier to start a group call without needing to dial.

Sony introduced the original Xperia Ear as a concept last year. When it hit the market, however, it had low sales figures. Reviewers stated that the product had limited functionality and a short battery life, according to The Verge.

Here's a review of Xperia Ear:

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