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Bose Frames audio AR sunglasses arrive in January, cost $199

With Frames, Bose says it's taking microacoustics and voice control to a new level. It's the tiniest Bose system ever.

Bose Frames come in matte black and two styles -- the larger (Alto) and smaller (Rondo). Both will be available in the US in January.

Robert Tardio/Bose

When it announced its new augmented reality platform with a set of prototype AR glasses back in March, Bose said that a commercial version of the product was coming. Now it's here: Bose Frames, a set of sunglasses with built-in microspeakers and microphones, will be available in the US in January for $199. Preorders start today at bose.com, and Bose AR apps are coming next year. (It will launch in select global markets in spring 2019; $199 converts to about £155 or AU$270.)

Weighing about the same as your typical sunglasses at 1.6 ounces (45 grams), Frames will come in two styles. Bose says they can stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants "while keeping playlists, entertainment and conversations private."

I had a chance to try a pair of the prototypes earlier this year and was generally impressed with the sound quality. They seem to be about on par with the Apple AirPods' sound, which also feature an open, non noise-isolating design.

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In the past, brands such as Oakley have come out with sunglasses that have built-in audio. But those designs have incorporated kludgy attached earbuds and didn't sound so good. The Bose Frames' "wafer-thin acoustic package" is set in each of the sunglasses'  arms. For touch and voice control, a tiny microphone and multifunction button are embedded on the right temple for power and pairing, Siri and Google Assistant, calls and commands, or to pause and skip songs.

As you might expect Bose Frames are Bose AR-compatible and will be the first commercial product embedded with the Bose audio augmented reality platform. Unlike video-based AR platforms, Bose AR delivers audio feedback based on your GPS location and which way you're facing, using a nine-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android device.

Bose

Battery life isn't great. Bose says that at average listening levels, they run up to 3.5 hours for playback and up to 12 hours on standby, and can be fully recharged in less than 2 hours using an included pogo-pin cable. A protective case and cleaning cloth are included.

Can you add a prescription lens to the Frames? Alas, you cannot, a Bose spokesperson told me.

Bose says it will provide an update on Bose AR at SXSW 2019 in March, so I suspect that's when the AR features will be added to the glasses. Initially, you'll just be able to stream audio, make calls and access voice assistants.

As soon as I get some hands-on time with the Frames, I'll provide a more in-depth analysis of the audio quality. But this in an interesting wearable that has a chance to shake up the audio market in the coming years. I look forward to reviewing it.

This story was originally published at 7:15 a.m. PT

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