November 1, 2004
Yves Béhar talks about the design of the Jawbone cell-phone headset for Aliph.
One of the biggest challenges for cell-phone users is to hear and to be heard more clearly in a noisy environment. Aliph’s Jawbone headset promises to help with that. Two Stanford grads, Alex Asseily and Hosain Rahman, developed the technology in partnership with an expert in speech technology from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The device feels when you speak and strips out noise that doesn’t come from the speaker. “The technology is mind-boggling,” says Yves Béhar, whose studio Fuseproject worked with Asseily and Rahman to translate their vision and technology into a striking design.
We asked Béhar to explain the design of this smart headset, which launched this past September on the Web (www.jawbone.com) and in specialty retail stores across the country, such as Barneys, the MoMA Design Store, and the Conran Shop.
I wanted to differentiate it from the overfeatured technology-centric Silicon Valley type of product. The interior of the piece is all soft material, and the part that touches your skin feels like a peach. It’s soft, comfortable, and ergonomic. The parts that go around and into your ear and touch your skin are rubber.
The stainless-steel exterior has this minimal rectangular shape; the idea was to create a contrast between the exterior image and interior technology.
The challenge was incorporating so many technological requirements. A green boot on the inside includes an exterior microphone in addition to the three microphones on the interior surface that point in very specific directions, so that when you are speaking you don’t need to hold a microphone boom in front of you. The voice comes from the vibration of the skin as well as from the sound.
Most cell-phones are designed as technology products. Nobody has really put a stake in the ground and said they are ornaments as much as they’re technology. I took the point of view that these are things we wear and that touch our skin, and I essentially made design a benefit for the user.
The earpiece weighs half an ounce.
On the exterior of the headset a round LED circle glows green to identify when you’re talking and blinks when you’re receiving a tone. You only see the green glow when you first answer the phone or when it rings.