Even before turned on, it’s obvious the VIE SHAIR are not typical wireless headphones by any measure. The brainchild of Yazz Imamura, a former executive at Warner Music Japan, his startup’s solution addresses a common problem posed while listening to music in an office environment: how to listen privately to music without disturbing those nearby, while also retaining the ability to discern ambient noises like phone calls, co-workers, and other work-related notifications.
The most noticeable thing about the VIE SHAIR is there are no ear cups. Instead, a pair of molded 3D printed wireframe structures – manufactured by 3D printing specialists, Stratasys – sit between the headphones’ planar magnetic speakers and the listener’s ears. Because the cage structure doesn’t encapsulate or press against the ears, heat, sweat, and discomfort normally associated with extended headphone wear is almost eliminated. The wearer can also still hear sounds around him or her without removing the headphones, resulting in audio gear ideal for work environments where keeping an ear open amongst colleagues and superiors is preferable…and you don’t want anyone to know you’re a secret Belieber.
Additionally and supplementing the VIE’s office environment compatibility, the wireless Bluetooth 4.2 Apt-X headphones can be switched into broadcasting and receiving settings – an “on air” mode – for sharing an audio source with any other VIE headsets within a 100ft radius. Company meetings without the hassle of gathering in the conference room, anyone?
If the unusual open cage design isn’t enough for you to feel like you stand out from amongst the ocean of Beats and other traditional headphones, the VIE offers one additional aesthetic accoutrement: adjustable LED trim lighting. LEDs glow softly around the perimeter, adjustable to either red, blue, yellow, green or white. In an open air workspace, wearers could communicate to one another their current availability (i.e. red signaling, “don’t bother me now”); for those walking or riding a bike outside, the lights could prove a visible safety feature.
The VIE SHAIR is currently in Kickstarter mode, with nearly a month left to raise enough investment to offer early investors these unusually shaped “social” headphones for $199, with plans to eventually sell them for $399 in March 2017.