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‘Neural’ headphones are big at CES – four fascinating products coming soon here

Updated: Mar 27

Competitors for the best headphones are increasingly not just focused on delivering top-quality audio. Every year it seems like new strings are being added to their bow, and one big thing we’ll see in earbuds and headphones at CES 2024 are ‘neural’ technologies.

We also saw a few more interesting earbuds that pushed the boundaries of headphone technology, including TimeKettle’s new X1 two-way translator earbuds for multiple devices and BREGGZ’s wireless in-ear computer earbuds, which also have a translation app. With Samsung also looking to add real-time translation to its next Galaxy Buds, it’s safe to say this is a technology we’ll be hearing a lot more about.

But the idea that headphones can read minds is – in our opinion – even more bizarre and therefore more interesting. I’ve rounded up four neural headphones I saw at CES 2024, all with very different designs.

1. Naqi neural earbuds

Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Naqi Logix, Dave Segal, holds a Neural Earbud during CES Unveiled 2024. (Image credit: Future)

Brain implants sound like science fiction, but there are plenty of companies working on developing this technology for the consumer market. In this case, it’s a company called Naqi Logix, which was co-founded by Dave Segal in Canada four years ago.

Segal tells me that the reason he invented wearable technology that could use electrical signals from the brain to control various devices, from smart home electronics to even flight simulators, was motivated by a desire to help a friend who had become paralyzed .

“We are building the only neural earbuds on planet Earth that can serve as a safe, non-invasive alternative to brain implants. (They provide) the ability to have complete control over Windows and Mac computers, including typing, browsing, shopping and playing contemporary video games,” Segal explains.

The idea behind the earbuds, which use gyroscopic, muscle and brainwave sensors, is that the computer interface technology within them can be used in any of the best wireless earbuds to give them this extra control. Given its ability to completely transform lives, it’s no wonder the Naqi Neural Earbuds received a CES Innovation Award for Accessibility and Aging Technology.

2. NeurGear ZenBud

NeurGear founder John Hacker shows off the ZenBud at CES Unveiled 2024. (Image credit: Future)

Instead of sensing nerves and translating those signals to control a device like the neural earbuds above, NeurGear’s ZenBud headset uses ultrasound waves to relax you. The technology works by stimulating the so-called vagus nerve, which is responsible for various bodily functions such as digestion, heart rate and breathing.

John Hacker, the founder and CEO of NearGear, explained to me that by stimulating a person’s vagus nerve, it triggers a rest response, which sends calming signals to the brain. This helps to “strengthen your stress resistance and your ability to relax. By using it for just five minutes a week, you will see a clear increase in stress resistance and relaxation.”

While the ZenBud is still in its infancy – NeurGear was only founded in 2021 – this kind of ultrasonic technology could be rolled out to the best earbuds in the future. But if you want to try it out sooner, as part of NeurGear’s Kickstarter campaign, you can pre-order it now for $1 and get a $100 discount on the purchase price, which is not yet known.

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