Creative Shows Wireless MP3 Headset; Open Standard in the Offing

LAS VEGAS, NV -- One of the more interesting products in the music player world to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, was the Zen Micro Wireless Headset from Creative, a prototype wireless headphone system that allows up to 4 people to listen to the same Zen Micro.

Creativeis Zen Micro is a line of flash and hard drive digital media devices. The company announced three new additions to the product line on Wednesday at CES, including a 1 gigabyte, 4GB, and 6GB unit.

The Zen Micro Wireless Headset comes with a cradle/sleeve that holds a Zen Micro and broadcasts to an included headset. Both the headset and the sleeve are powered by AAA batteries; one AAA battery will power the sleeve unit for up to 25 hours of broadcasting.

Up to four people can listen to the broadcast from one Zen Micro. Software installed with the sleeve allows the broadcaster to control how many people can receive the signal, or to lock out other listeners altogether. If he then wants to share his signal with another listener, that listener need simply hold his Zen Micro Wireless Headset near the broadcasting Zen Micro, and push a button on the headset to begin listening. The entire affair is handled wirelessly.

The device is priced at US$129, and will be available in the second quarter of 2005. In addition, company spokespersons on hand at Creativeis booth told The Mac Observer that the unit being previewed at CES (see photos below) are prototypes, and that the final shipping product will be smaller.

The Zen Micro Wireless Headset sleeve
(Click on image to see larger version)
The headset portion of the unit
as modeled by a Creative employee
(Click on image to see larger version)


Creative is working with Aura Communications Technology, LTD, a company co-owned by Creative and Motorola, to develop the headset using Aurais LibertyLink technology. LibertyLink is a "Near Field Magnetic Wireless Communication" technology that uses magnetic induction to transmit it signal.

Operating in the 13.56 MHz frequency, LibertyLink is not subject to RF interference, and uses 4:1 compression when transmitting its signal. Creativeis implementation in the Zen Micro Wireless Headset effectively creates a controlled magnetic bubble around the user of about 10 meters. In that bubble, users can hear music transmitted by their Zen Micro.

Kim Gray, Chief Technology Officer for Aura, told The Mac Observer that his company is working to build LibertyLink into an open standard. Aura wants to build a "club" of companies that are using LibertyLink, including other digital media device manufacturers.

When asked if Apple is one of those companies Aura is discussing this with, Mr. Gray said he could not comment.