A Dutch Design Academy Eindhoven student showcased a concept of a 3D printed earphone wearable recently at the Dutch Design Week 2015. We asked designer Pieter Husmann to tell us more.
Tell us about yourself and the work you’ve done.
My name is Pieter Husmann and I’m a Dutch Designer that recently graduated from the Design Academy, Eindhoven. I grew up making things and always creating with the desire to have or give something special to somebody. I had an idea about what it should look and work like and the design of it always had to stand out in some way. Back then, I wasn’t aware that I was “designing”—just the activity of thinking and creating something is what I’ve always been really passionate about. Realizing that I could do that professionally happened when I took my first step in the Design Academy. “This feels like home” I said, and some amazing years there followed.
Back then, I wasn’t aware that I was “designing”—just the activity of thinking and creating something is what I’ve always been really passionate about.
I learned so much that it’s hard to give a summary, but everything I have learned there has become second nature to me. It’s like a toolbox and every time I got to know a new tool, I got new ideas and possibilities about what I could create with those new tools. I developed many skills from working with metal to programming code, textiles and 3D printing. During the years and many projects, I came to realize that my strengths are in smart solutions with technique or technology and Hélo is the most recent one.
Describe your wearable tech concept, Hélo.
Hélo is an earphone that is completely 3D printed. 3D printing is perfect to make every product unique, which allowed me to make it very personal. No ear is the same, so it’s custom made to have a perfect fit. This gives it great comfort. For the design you can chose from a range of colors and premium metals to fit your taste. Next to it’s appearance, the functionality of it is just as important to me.
The premium metal button features a four-way switch to activate different functions. These functions can be changed with the app for different activities. For example, while a user is driving Hélo can read out loud new text messages or emails. While a user is running, with a single click, Hélo will tell them their average speed and achieved distance. Hélo keeps you notified without a screen.
What was your inspiration behind creating Hélo?
I see many people using their phone while they are in traffic. This is very frustrating to me. When I started to look into it I read that this causes many traffic accidents, over 50% of them! The government is making commercials now that tell people to turn their phones off when they get behind the wheel. But if people are so curious about their phone that they would even check it while driving, they most certainly are not going to turn their phones entirely off. This has become a problem that keeps on growing, with Hélo I wanted to offer a solution for this problem.
What sets Hélo apart from other wearables in the space?
The design doesn’t look like a piece of electronics at all. The idea was to design a set of earphones that do not look like “tech”, so it would be appealing to everyone. This way, it could make a difference for all those people who check their phones while driving.
What is the biggest innovation of Hélo?
I always tell people it isn’t innovative at all, people have been working for decades on voice assistance. Voice assistance is slowly getting better but errors occur very often, and it’s still not good enough. For example, a great many languages aren’t supported yet. The text-to-speech function on the other hand works very well in every language. Activating a specific task with a button takes out all possible mistakes, which makes it very reliable. I could’ve used a touch-surface and all kinds of sensors, but I wanted the Hélo to work in every condition. Even if a user’s hands are cold, wet or covered with gloves, the button needs to work. These are all existing techniques that I used in a different way-that’s what makes it new.
What was your greatest challenge when making Hélo?
The greatest challenge was to make it look beautiful. Almost the entire shape of Hélo is variable because it is custom made for each individual ear. It’s a strange organic shaped piece that you can’t re-shape because that would compromise the comfort of wearing it. Before this, early prototypes looked really “tech”. The solution was to create a default part that would fit in every ear. This part contains the electronics and it is captured by a soft transparent material that makes it fit seamlessly into the user’s ear, each a customized and unique shape. The vivid color of the electronics reflects in the frosted look of the transparent material-the color almost glows in it. One small part, just underneath the button, isn’t covered by transparent materials and works like a color accent.
Where can we buy Hélo, when is it available, and what is the cost?
Tons of people asked me this during the Dutch Design Week, the interest and responses were overwhelming. Unfortunately Hélo isn’t for sale yet because it’s a concept. For me it was a great compliment that so many people wanted to have Hélo. All these reactions confirmed two important goals for me. The first is that designing earphones attracts many people. I had great responses from young to older people. The second goal was that I expected the kind of functions that Hélo contains to be picked-up by early adopters. Instead, almost everybody had their own ideas of application, ideas which I would have never thought of.
What’s next for you? Do you have any specific ideas about future products or segments you would like to target?
My main goal now is to get Hélo on the market, as soon as possible. I’m considering crowdfunding it but I am open to other suggestions. A partnership with a big company would be ideal, because I think lower pricing and better software integration would greatly help the product and would make Hélo available to as many people as possible.
To learn more about Hélo, check out Pieter’s website and the video below. We’ll be sure to keep our eye on the Hélo as the concept becomes a reality.
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