These earbuds from Doppler have passed their Kickstarter funding stage, and when they hit the market I can't imagine they won't find traction with anyone who's ever sat in the Screaming Infant Section of an airliner, or had to endure Uncle Honus' six hundredth recitation of his hardscrabble upbringing on the mean streets of days gone by, when everything wasn't commercialized, people actually talked to each other and not their consarned mobile phones, et cetera, et cetera...no disrespect intended, Uncle.
Doppler's Here earbuds allow the user to edit the audio input they receive from the world around them: passing through what they want to hear, canceling what they don't, much as noise-cancelling headphones already do but with an incredible level of selectivity. You'll be able to "tune out" the nagging tweens and workplace distractions as never before.
If you're already annoyed by the "look down" behaviors and interpersonal indifference inspired by smartphones, this'll really drive you crazy.
An Ad Blocker For The Ears?
But tech like this has the obvious capacity to create one more nightmare for marketers.
Think about it: if you don't like blaring radio ads or direct marketing TV spots flogging the latest revolution in body hair removal, why listen to them? Screen them out! Or, in time, I'm sure you'll be able to substitute your own fill track. Who wouldn't rather listen to sixty seconds of Josh Groban rather than a vacuum cleaner comparison spot?
Hold on. Maybe that’s the wrong example.
But you get it.
It's entirely possible that we may someday see a world of real selectability in human senses - what we see, hear, maybe even smell and taste may be filterable in ways we can only conjecture about right now.
That's the lesson of technology, though: it turns conjecture into reality, and with fantastic speed of late.
Editing Our Everyday Experiences
Imagine wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses with built-in ad blockers, never mind any augmented reality functionality. How does an advertiser overcome that? Probably not through legal mandates. Bribing the user - here's a pair of $500 Gucci shades, free if you don't screen out our ads - might be a conceivable model for holding onto eyeballs and eardrums.
I did a post last year about RF-shielded apparel designed to insulate users from intrusions into their personal privacy, and the notion of editable experience is corollary to that.
Would there be problems to reckon with? More than we can imagine right now. Strolling through life wearing a pair of digitally-enabled rose-colored glasses could create all kinds of safety issues, not to mention social frictions. Don’t like seeing homeless people camped out under that overpass on your daily commute? Turning them into hydrangea planters is just a click away.
But if you’re a believer in the free market, you’ve got no problem with an ad-blocking component to this technology: in a truly free market, consumers ought to have the right to resist consumption, or at least control the channels by which marketers try to engage them.
That puts the burden on us, as marketers, to ensure we're delivering the kind of value people will be eager to embrace. So we won't be be filtered out along with the ShamWow guy and Uncle Honus.
Who, when you think about it, might be making a good point or two.