I always thought bluetooth headsets were a good cover for crazy guys who talk to themselves. You know, you’re driving down the street downtown and come to a junction. There’s this guy, stripped to the waste, praying to the traffic, talking out to the traffic, shouting, waving his arms, remonstrating with all the city-folk passing by. “Hey, look at him, that guy’s crazy!” You look closer and spy the soft glint of brushed plastic sticking out of his ear; “Nah, he’s wearing a bluetooth – he’s taking a call”
So it was with interest that I purchased an aural amplifier that is designed to look like a bluetooth headset. This gadget is one of those ultra-cheap and rubbish “hearing aid” things that offer the chance to watch TV without waking up your sleeping partner or to take part in conversations with your golf buddies without having to guess what the topic was. The point of this particular model was that no one would know that the wearer was actually hearing impaired, possibly as a result of getting old, when actually the image of the wearer sporting a piece of cutting edge technology (as represented by a flashing green LED) is surely proof of their youth. Interesting psychology going on here. Interesting because of the undecided social nature of bluetooth technology. The headsets, you know, do they liberate a man to talk out loud, to the wind, in pretend conversation? And conversely they finally permit someone to look like they might be talking to you when in fact they could be talking to anyone in the entire world with access to a phone. It’s that focus of attention that’s confusing – a feature that allows, for example, people to use their phones when driving where use of a hand-held device is forbidden.
But anyway that’s all old bluetooth stuff. The technology is undergoing a quiet revolution that promises to change how we interact with our gadgets even further. Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE or Bluetooth 4.0 is basically your regular bluetooth that runs low on the energy but also low on the information exchange. Something like a wristwatch that synced with your phone might last two years on a single battery but couldn’t handle anything more than the simple data services – it would connect with your messages, display the time, calendar, alarms and stuff but Bluetooth 4.0 can not handle the audio streaming and you wouldn’t get to to talk into your watch like a twentieth century spy.
So many people have asked what’s the point of it? Of course, bluetooth is notorious for draining your phone or laptop so a new low-energy protocol would be welcome but if it can’t do audio… Then it will find a myriad of other uses. I look forward to the day when I can get a bluetooth hearing aid – a genuine one, you know that interfaces with a digital audio control program on my computer, not the one I have now – a complete fake, designed to be a fake, designed to fool others… well, let’s see how that goes.
First test run at the Oaklajara fundraiser/farewell party: Most people asked why I was wearing a bluetooth. As a disguise – a complete fail. As an aural amplifier – worth every cent of the $12 it cost. I’ll say that much.