Sound Band Backers, Rejoice: Thiel Says Your Device is Coming Soon

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already looking toward the future and what the long-term plan is for bringing the Sound Band to market. Potential licensees have already begun contacting Hybra, Thiel said.

“We’re working on very cool and unique configurations for specific markets,” he said. “We’ll license the design and let them manufacture it themselves.”

He imagines a simplified helmet-based version of the Sound Band for use in law enforcement or military applications, when having one’s ear open to the surrounding environment would be a tactical advantage. He also envisions helmet-based Sound Bands for use in motorcycling, three-wheeling, and snowmobiling. In addition, he’d like to develop a version of the Sound Band for runners and professional bicyclists, noting that in many athletic events, conventional headphones aren’t allowed for safety reasons.

He thinks the Sound Band could also be used to narrate museum tours, the BLE chip detecting a patron’s location and pulling up the appropriate exhibit information. But he perhaps sounds most excited by a concept he called “In the Game:” a Sound Band for use in athletic stadiums during live sporting events, taking the place of transistor radios sometimes favored by the older generation of fans. Users could hear radio commentary from the booth while also leaving their ears open to hear what’s broadcast on stadium speakers.

“From a growth perspective, we can go right into the Detroit athletic market,” he said. “It could also be used as a safety device if an emergency occurred in the stadium.” In the future, he envisions adding features like coach commentary or on-the-field commentary generated by putting microphones on the players.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” he said of planning future versions and uses of the Sound Band. “Instead of wondering if we can even [produce the Sound Band], now we’re thinking, ‘What can we do with it?’ ”

Asked how his relationship with angry Kickstarter backers has improved, Thiel alluded to possible legal action in the future. “We’ve been a little more forward in saying, ‘Don’t come on here saying stuff if you don’t have proof.’ We’ve been kind of stern about it,” he said. “We’re going to have to defend [negative comments] at some point. It’s not fun, and I’m not looking forward to it, but we have to do it.”

Thiel reiterated that he and Hybra are not engaged in fraud, and said the many delays in getting the Sound Band into the hands of Kickstarter backers are due to the challenges that come with creating a new, innovative piece of hardware that wasn’t as solidly designed as the company initially thought.

“Kickstarter creators who don’t deliver should be in trouble,” he said. “I despise that kind of stuff.”

Despite the turmoil Hybra has gone through in the wake of the Kickstarter campaign, Thiel said he wouldn’t change the experience.

“From a life-learning perspective, I would have done it all over again,” he said. “From a financial and business perspective, I probably wouldn’t have tried to launch a high-tech product through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is good for products that have already been developed or just need an update and have a definable timeline; the potential for marketing and feedback is really great.”

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