Man I’m a chatterbox right now. Well, I figure I’d better get it in before I go back to work and hardly have time to think.
A little while ago, I had heard about these headphones called Aftershokz. All I knew about them was they were a type of those bone conduction headphones I’d heard about years ago. But these were getting rave reviews from everybody. You could listen to music, or GPS, or talk on the phone and still be able to hear traffic. This sounded pretty cool. So I convinced Steve to get me a set for Christmas. This is the set he got me.
And holy crap are these things amazing. I don’t even know how to explain the sheer awesome without sounding stupid, but here goes. You can here the sound in the room, and the sound in the headphones, and they can coexist in harmony! You can talk to people at a normal volume while listening to songs or Voiceover or whatever…and when you sing along with whatever music you’re grooving to, you don’t end up doing that off key yelling thing people do when they’re singing along with headphones.
So yeah, whatever. Cool. But here’s where it gets cooler. If you’re out and about, and you have GPS on, you can get guidance to your destination, meanwhile you can still hear the traffic and cross the street completely safely. And if you get a phone call, no fumbling for your phone! Just push the little answer button on your control box and gab away hands free. Sooooo coooool!
I have taken the headphones on 2 pretty sizeable adventures, and I love them so much. I walked a km-long route in a part of town I didn’t know, got help from GPS, and was also able to focus on the traffic and talk to people I passed along the way. I kind of felt like Sam from Quantum Leap with his little invisible hologram assistant guy. Sam was talking to the people around him, but the hologram was talking to him, telling him info he needed, but the people couldn’t see the hologram guy. It was cool! And now I look both old and geeky.
Walking around with these headphones on, searching for points of interest on the move makes me realize how much technology has improved our ability to learn stuff in this new city. I’m going to sound like an old woman for a minute, but humour me. Do you know how we figured stuff out 11 years ago when we moved to Guelph? We’d try to walk there and get absolutely lost, or we would cab…which could either be an expensive lesson, or an embarrassingly short trip. We didn’t even have Google Maps! Now, before I even walk somewhere, I can punch the destination into a couple apps or Google maps, get the distance, and then decide whether it’s walkable, bussable, or cabbable. It’s friggin awesome!
Oh, and another aside about KW. From what I’ve seen, they do a way better job of snow removal than Guelph. I know it won’t be perfect, and there are going to be hellish places, but I wasn’t super close to downtown and the sidewalks didn’t totally suck! There was actually something resembling a sidewalk! It was funny. People would say “Oh god the next part is really bad,” and it was a walk in the park compared to what I used to see on a regular basis in Guelph. And when I got to the corner, there was actually a spot I could walk to where I could cross the street without having to be a mountaineer first! I may eat my words later in the season, but for now I’m impressed.
But back to Aftershokz, I wonder if the instructions could be tweaked a wee bit. They tell you to plug the 3.5 mm connector into the USB charger. So I was perplexed for a second. The only 3.5 mm connector I knew for sure of was the audio cable, but I knew that didn’t make any sense…so I kept looking around until I found a rubber cover thingy that opened to reveal a charging spot. Since so many blind folks buy these things, I wonder if mentioning that it’s near the on/off switch would be helpful. Oh, and can you have an audible indicator for when the user powers the headphones on? Not everybody has the wee bit of vision, so can hold the suckers up to their face to see lights. And when you get ’em, and the instructions say don’t charge while powered on, you’re not sure which way is on. One last thing. Some day, would it be possible to have an AC charging cord? I’m thinking of times when I go to someone’s house who doesn’t have a computer, and really need to charge these suckers. But those are my only suggestions, they’re not even really complaints.
So yeah. If you’re blind, out and about and using your phone or something where you use headphones, get these right now. They’ll change your life. I’m not kidding. If you hate wires, you might want to wait for the Bluetooth jobs to come out, but that’s the only reason to wait, provided you’re not uber broke or in possession of a computer whose USB ports have taken a poop. These things are worth every penny. I hope these suckers last for a long, long time.