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Headphone 3.0? How a computer in your ear could change headphones forever

They call it ‘Headphone 3.0’ – an evolution of the headphone. It will, they say, give control back to the user via a headphone-based operating system, enabling a new world of headphone apps that go far beyond the merely musical. 

“End users select how they hear the world,” says Sonical, the California-based company behind the operating system ‘CosmOS’ and the idea of Headphone 3.0 as an evolved app system. “App developers are given direct access to the consumer to deliver a truly differentiated experience, exactly what they need, when they need it.”

The idea is that while headphone manufacturers today offer this function or that function but not the other, any headphones equipped with CosmOS would allow users to install third-party apps, in the same way we put apps on our phones. 

As an example, Sonical has recently announced a partnership with Ireland-based company Segotia, which works in advanced audio and neuro technology, including sensing of brain activity and user engagement. Headphone 3.0 would in this case enable users to download personalised neuro-sensing applications to headphones or earbuds, which could work in concert with music playback, or for entirely different purposes. 

We first encountered Sonical when talking with Jonny McClintock, formerly with Qualcomm, and a key member of the team which drove the aptX Bluetooth audio codec to success from its origins with a professor at Queen’s University Belfast. McClintock is now involved with several new codec and headphone technologies, and he introduced us to the concept of Headphone 3.0…

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