August 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

You Won’t Make Fun of Muzik’s Twitter/Facebook Headphones for Long

muzik

It sounds like the punchline to a joke about technology going too far: headphones that let you share songs on Twitter and Facebook, with a built-in accelerometer to stop the music when you take them off. What will the pointy-heads think of next?

Billed as “the world’s first and only socially connected smart headphones,” the Muzic headphones, which should be available in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season, feature touch-sensitive buttons that will let people control music playback and post their currently-playing tracks to Facebook or Twitter, without messing around with their phones.

Why do we need headphones that talk to Twitter and Facebook — other than to give the tech press another oddball product to make fun of, now that the internet-enabled refrigerator has lost its novelty value?

The thing is, music fans actually do need these headphones, and they’ll use them or something like them, eventually. Apps are the future, but smartphones are getting in the way.

Remember Turntable.fm, the online listening room site for listening to music with other people on the internet? It lost its allure, for me anyway — and judging from how infrequently I hear about it, for other people too. Part of the issue: Turntable.fm requires lots of intervention. If you’re the DJ, you need to keep your song queue fresh — and if you’re in the audience, you’re expected to vote each song up or down, and sometimes, you have to switch rooms. This is not something you can do while you’re also doing something else — and music is almost entirely consumed in an environment like that (i.e. while also driving, working, jogging, dancing, etc.).

Hardware buttons — like the ones on these headphones, assuming their most-probably Bluetooth-transmitted functions can be assigned by apps — are the answer. If you like the song, you can hit the Like button on the side of your head instead of going through all of the steps that software requires (powering up your screen, entering your password, closing out of your current app, searching for the app playing the music, pressing Like, and then deciding that it’s probably not worth doing all of that stuff the next time you like a song).

This is one reason so many people use simpler apps like Pandora for their regular music listening: You just hit go, and things work pretty well on their own after that. But even Pandora is improved with a hardware interface like this:

pandora buttons

Hardware solutions to software problems are, in a sense, about easy multitasking. Yes, your phone has hardware volume buttons, but everything else is mired in a maze of menus and complexity. Muzik’s headphones will likely make Jay Leno’s nightly monologue when they come out, because expensive Twitter/Facebook headphones represent everything people profess to hate: hipsters, social networks, expensive tech gizmos, and entitled, anti-social nerds who are closed off to the so-called “real world” because they live online.

However, Muzik’s won’t be the only headphones to surface formerly-software-only functionality outside of the phone, and this sort of thing will stop being funny eventually, because it just makes so much sense. As the internet of things takes off, we’ll all have to get used to not making fun of formerly “dumb” things like headphones, walls, and yes, refrigerators performing functions that are currently relegated to the computer or smartphone.

The upshot: more sharing of “#nowplaying” songs on Facebook and Twitter — and more complex apps becoming popular, because taking advantage of their feature won’t require dropping everything else you’re doing to find a virtual button in a software maze.

(.pdf announcement via psfk)