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029 – Imrich Valach – Sentien Audio: All-Day Bone Conduction Hearable Device

This week’s episode of the Future Ear Radio podcast features Imrich Valach, founder of Sentien Audio. Imrich and his team are taking a novel and creative approach to the whole premise of a hearable, with its all day, bone-conduction audio device. During this interview, Imrich and I chat about the inspiration behind starting the company, why he ultimately settled on bone conduction for the form factor, and how the device serves as a conduit to the audio web and voice user interface.

As Imrich and I talk about throughout this conversation, the average smartphone user unlocks their phone nearly 100 times per day, depending on which study you look at. This is up from 80 times in 2016. If you’re trying to think through the evolution of our collective consumer behavior with our technology, ask yourself, why are you opening your phone more and more as time goes on? Think about what you’re actually doing all those times that you’re going into your phone each day, and ask yourself, what exactly are you accomplishing each time?

Sentien Audio Device. If you’ve never experienced bone-conduction, you’re in for a treat.

One of the best ways to think through these questions is to use Clayton Christensen’s Jobs-to-be-Done framework. What “jobs” are you accomplishing every time you go into your phone? Are you looking to your phone and the apps within it to stave off boredom? Are you trying to get from point A to point B (navigation apps). Are you trying to feed yourself (Postmates or Doordash)? Are you trying to learn something?

What you’ll likely find, is that each time that you’re going into your phone, you’re “hiring” your phone (and its apps) to do a job.

If you were to categorize each of those instances, what you might discover is that a decent-sized portion of said instances could be achieved through an alternative method. This is at the crux of where I believe Sentien’s value lies. It might be an appealing option to offload an increasing amount of the times your entering into your phone, because you can achieve the same goal, by hiring a different technology for the job. To me, being able to reduce the number of times that I’m unlocking my phone, simply because I can achieve the same result through a different device, will be increasingly appealing as time goes on.

As I mention in our conversation, the only way to really describe bone-conduction technology is magical. Bone conduction headphones perform the role of your eardrums. These devices decode sound waves and convert them into vibrations that can be received directly by the Cochlea so the eardrum is never involved. Therefore, there’s no actual sound emitted. I could be standing inches from someone, and they would not hear anything coming from my device, as it’s communicating sound to me through vibrations.

Sentien represents a totally different approach to hearables. In my opinion, the more form factors and different takes on what a hearable can look and function like, the better. While AirPods might be the clear leader in the hearables market today, I think we’re only beginning to see the wide variety of different devices that are poised to enter the market and reshape the way we think of body-worn audio devices.

-Thanks for Reading-

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