Metaaudio >> metaverses. — Apple AirPods are the ultimate metaverse entry point. Enabling meta experiences despite yet unfulfilled headset dreams.
Content Futura 2023 · Part 2 · A blog series · 16 weekly episodes — 1000 words/post (more or less) from 09/01/22–12/31/22
Metaverses are here already. If you consume the news or hold down a job involving screens, if you use up-to-date entertainment offerings like games, music, film, and video. If you use all the smart aspects of your smartphone — you seamlessly go in and out of metaverses multiple times during your days without even taking notice of doing so. All events connect thru data playing out in virtuality, projected against the backdrop of the massive 3D worlds our brains can design. Beyond screens, Apple’s AirPods help — more than any other device — to further enable interconnected metaverses. Those existing already. And future ones.
I love music. I love music everywhere and especially on the go. However, it took me decades of frustrating ignorance towards Sonys Walkman (introduced in 1976!), iPods, and other MP3 players until I finally was allowed to come home, to arrive with a music-on-the-go solution I truly love: The Apple AirPods. For a long time, I own thousands and thousands of all sorts of physical music media storage units — aka CDs, DVDs, Vinyl, tapes, etc. — as well as tons of content in data formats. I subscribe to several streaming services. But, over time, I never bought a Walkman. As playing taped music thru a wire never felt deeply satisfactory to me after I had tested the system. There was too much of constant disruption from the cable getting caught on all kinds of corners, furniture, handles etc. Consequentially, the only iPod we co-own in the family remained the one we got as a gift. Sure, I owned headsets for business — but never for the joy of it like I do with Apple AirPods. AirPods were the first mobile headset I acquired out of heartfelt convincement for a headset product making my future days much, much better. Turns out I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for the product with an estimate of ca. 150 Mio. units shipped so far (plus potentially countless millions of copy-cat products with basically similar functions not counted) — How come?
To me, the magic of AirPods isn’t in the integration of the headset into the overall Apple cosmos with Apple’s characteristic seamless style. It’s not outstanding sound quality. It’s not the product’s price. It’s not the nice, designy engineering solution with the little white, worry stone-like case, that doubles as a protective case and as an outsourced power storage also.
It is because once I wear them, I do forget about them. I start to take for granted they deliver sound. I forget them to a degree that I ended up still wearing them in the shower several times (plugs survived, so far). I fell asleep at night still having them on. I go into meetings, I work rooms, conferences, and trade shows having them in my ears. I go grocery shopping wearing them. I wear them on public transport, and in my car (which can get you in conflict with the law and/or insurance in some cases). And that’s all a very good thing because it means they enable me to extend my bubble of perception far beyond my physical presence.
I’m always wire-free, hands-free while maintaining conversations, or — even more relevant — carry on within my sound bubble. I can zone out third-party conversations and all forms of “elevator music” thanks to my AirPods. I even prefer to consume filmed content with my AirPods on, having them deliver a soundscape wrapping my senses far better than any speakers — while it keeps me more focused and engaged with the respective overall content experience.
In other words: My AirPods allow me to create, maintain and leverage my connection with content technology to a degree no other gadget beyond the screen of choice can do. They enable me to be the master of my very own metaverse as they leverage digital experiences from Social Media to audiobooks in a zero-g way.
The AirPods switch digital input platforms with me like no other device. Be it Zoom calls or meetings on any other conference call platform. Be it audiovisual entertainment for leisure or informational purpose, or be it standard phone calls with elderly family members.
In one line: My AirPods help me make the digital universes I navigate all day in my professional and private life become a series of seamless personal metaverses pooled by one sound source that enhances my hearing abilities.
To me, this is much more of a relevant metaverse incarnation for now than any concept of the metaverse being a digitally modeled 3D parallel universe that is accessible only thru some form of goggles or other forms of headsets hiding everything else of real life visually. (Thought: “VR headsets too much of a higher concept device yet, while not inclusive enough for mainstream adoption” — Maybe that’s why the long-rumored “Apple VR Headset” is not on the market yet?)
I suggest the entertainment content industry starts more efforts to integrate the functionality of the Air Pods into their products and services. Why not start to broadcast (additional) sound or sound effects or voice overs thru Air Pods in theatres or at concerts? What about offering certain soundtracks or product presentations thru WI-FI at points of sale, in exhibitions, or at trade fairs? What about artists compiling and offering certain playlists for certain occasions in people’s lives? What about audio games that can be played thru voice/sound only while you are doing something else with your eyes and hands? Or … imagine, IKEA delivers you a sound file of the Billy assembly instructions … including some relaxing music for the moment the final screw is lost between some cracks in your living room floor … :-)
After all, any true metaverse will eventually have to integrate the component of touch as well in order to be truly meta. No matter what headset evangelists try to tell us otherwise. So maybe thru sound, experienced from a device designed so well, we forget about it while it does its work, we can expand even further and faster into our very own meta worlds via our minds long before our eyes will be able to follow.