Bose Develops Prototype “Sleepbuds” After Buying San Diego Startup

Bose, the privately held maker of headphones, loudspeakers, and other electronics for audiophiles, has acquired Hush, a San Diego startup founded by three undergraduate engineering students to develop “smart” noise-masking earbuds designed to help users sleep.

The Framingham, MA, audio giant has incorporated the Hush technology in a prototype product that Bose is testing in a new product category that might best be described as “health and wellness audio.”

In a recent e-mail newsletter, Hush founding CEO Daniel “Ewok” Lee announced the acquisition, writing, “Some huge news to share – we’ve been acquired by Bose Corporation!”

Lee did not reveal the sale price or when Bose acquired Hush, however, and he did not respond to Xconomy queries e-mailed on Wednesday. [In an e-mail sent late Wednesday, Lee provided a link to a video with some background information on the Hush-Bose relationship, saying “This is all the information we’re sharing for now.”]

In the Hush newsletter, Lee wrote: “Sorry for the complete radio silence for the past year. Wish we could have shared the news about joining Bose earlier (believe us that we wanted to!), but Bose naturally wanted to keep this info “hush hush” until the right time. You can no longer buy the Hush product, as we have a dramatically improved new product in its place: Bose noise-masking sleepbuds™.”

Lee also notes that Bose “is currently testing a prototype version of noise-masking sleepbuds through an Indiegogo campaign, and invites subscribers to learn more on their Indiegogo landing page. In a video embedded on the Indiegogo campaign site, Bose executives outline their plans for introducing the sleepbuds as a pioneering product in a new, non-entertainment audio category.

In the video, Bose director of emerging technologies Brian Mulcahey says, “There are significant health implications for not sleeping enough, and not sleeping well. Things like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, alzheimer’s are all medically statistically linked to poor and insufficient sleep.”

As Liz Dylewicz, a Bose product manager, explains in the video, the prototype “sleepbuds” are intended “protect peoples’ sleep from unwanted and disruptive noises.”

The Hush sale was hailed by EvoNexus CEO Rory Moore as one more success story for the San Diego “no-strings-attached” incubator where three UC San Diego engineering students advanced their technology for Hush. (In a 2014 interview with Xconomy, Lee said they conceived of the idea in a senior-level undergraduate class for entrepreneurial-minded engineers.)

According to Moore, Bose “liked their approach on some of the electronics they had developed. They also came up with software that was pretty clever that worked with your smartphone.”

Moore said he was not privy to terms of the Hush deal, saying, “I’m sure it wasn’t a big price. It was kind of a tuck-in deal.” Nevertheless, Moore said it’s a feather-in-their-cap for Hush’s three founders, who had all graduated in recent years from UC San Diego with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering.

In a postscript goodbye in the Hush e-mail newsletter , Lee concludes, “We likely won’t be sending additional newsletters…”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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