Searching for new ideas from technology world, I have encountered a German startup called Lofelt, with a very interesting project: it's called The Basslet, a wearable bracelet made "for feeling music" through vibrations and haptics. It's called, subwoofer for your body. Of course, it is no promise for allowing completely deaf people to hear music, but it can be helpful in certain contexts: during gymnastic, you can feel the rhythm better, or you'll get a more immersive atmosphere while listening to dance music on your own or with games rich of sound effects. As my job and volunteer activities are dealing with inclusive design in hardware and software, I was very curious of "feeling music" concept and I backed their Kickstarter campaign from the start; surprisingly, this product came to me on 24th December 2016, so I had all the time to test it, play with it, understand pros and cons.
Description and unboxing
Package comes with a paper box, containing:
- Transmitter (also works as charger)
- strap tool
- extra-strap: use the strap tool to remove old strap and replace with the new
- micro-USB charger
- paper manual
Physical description: Basslet looks like a plastic rectangular watch, with a rubber strap; it has no display, as this accessory is not made to view information, but to feel. A led is in the upper part, and on a side two buttons are found, used to adjust vibration intensity, turn on/off thhe bracelet and they also form contacts to charge the basslet. Bottom part, which stays in contact with the wrist, has two side which are rounded; those are used as tactile reference point to find right orientation to attach bracelet and charger. The transmitter, or sender, is a smaller rectangular accessory, with a middle button (used to start pairing operation), in one side a small cable with a male 3,5 jack, and opposite sides contain micro USB and 3,5 mm jack female connectors. Bottom part, has rounded sides; so, it's very easy to charge the bracelet: transmitter works also as charger, so, plug micro USB cable in the female port, then attach bracelet in its proper position, on sender's short side, in contact with basslet's buttons; charge is magnetic and they will attach together with no trouble. Of course it would not be possible to listen to music while charging, the bracelet cannot be worn with magnetic charger in it.
How it works
First step: connect Basslet with audio source. It works with every machine with a 3,5 mm connector; of course it works with latest iPhones, thanks to lightning adaptors or docks. Technology was born in 2015, so, it has not adapted yet to latest standards, such as Lightning ans USBC. Basslet's sender, works as a "filter": attach sender's male 3,5 mm connector to original source - iPhone/iPad's 3,5 jack connector, or lightning adaptor. It can also work connected to an airport express base. Attach wired headset or speaker, to basslet sender's female jack. Wear the basslet bracelet on wrist, then press bracelet's button opposite to LED's corner - it can be distinguished with no particular problems. Start music on connected audio source. Bracelet should start vibrating; if it doesn't, it's unpaired. This uses radio frequency, not bluetooth; it does not need any extra-apps to work with, just plug&play.
If no vibration is felt on wrist, it means Basslet is not paired with its sender. To pair it, press sender/transmitter's center button, till a blue led turns on; this needs sighted assistance, as then, blue led should blink. After that, press both bracelet's buttons simultaneously. The Basslet should make a vibration and start working, we're ready to go!
Unfortunately, sensations cannot be described in word, and this accessory has not a sufficient sound output to be heard through a microphone; wearing it, it seems that an extra-applewatch is gently tapping on our wrist, and vibrating, following the rhythm of playing music! The more bass is present, the more it vibrates and taps; of course, dance music is the best practice.
Prices and availability
Price is about 129 euro, or dollars, depending if it is bought on amazon or on producer's site - I think producer's site is better for European customers, as they have really a wonderful shipping.
a story to tell
Basslet has been invented in Germany, by 3 people: Daniel Buttner, Luke Holland and Gwydion ap Dafydd. Luke was 31 years old, coming from England, and was an Oxford graduated. He was an entrepreneur who had invented this bracelet, to help visually and hearing impaired people. Unfortunately, this guy found himself in the wrong place at wrong moment, and was murdered by a German neo nazi man,, in September 2015, who shot him because Luke was a foreigner. This is the result of people hating other people: many innocent persons who are willing to help us, are getting murdered because of racism and xenophoby. I was shocked to hear that news, as I knew about Basslet later in 2016 and backed the project; Lofelt work is going on, and they will be present at CES2018 in Las Vegas.