The Olive P is inclusion at its very best. Often in the pursuit to make a sexy product, designers tend to forget a section of their audience that isn’t focused on owning the product as a fashion or style statement. Take for instance the Apple Watch. The wearable debuted in 2015 and over the years evolved into an Apple-made smartwatch that could track your heartbeat, sleep, exercise, fitness, heart-rhythm, steps, and a variety of body metrics. However, the ability to track one’s period (a pretty useful application for Apple’s female audience) wasn’t introduced until 2019. The truth simply was that even with its vast resources, it didn’t occur to Apple that the smartwatch could serve this purpose. One could say the same about the AirPods Pro. With as many microphones as it has, and with Apple’s most advanced processors sitting on the inside analyzing real-world sounds and computing advanced noise-cancellation algorithms, the AirPods could just as easily serve as a pair of incredibly advanced hearing aids… but the reality is that it probably never occurred to Apple’s design or marketing team when they first envisioned the product. Luckily, in a meeting room somewhere on the other side of the planet in Tokyo, the idea came to Owen Song, founder of Olive Union.
Olive Union’s been on a mission since 2016 to make impeccable TWS earphones that serve that niche audience with hearing aids designed with the same attention to detail as consumer tech. In fact, its 2019 Smart Ear series even won a Best of CES award in January this year. Their latest earphones, the Olive P, are a double whammy. Designed to work BOTH as TWS earphones for most consumers, as well as FDA-approved hearing aids for the impaired, the Olive Pro provides an enhanced hearing for everything – nearby sounds, music, and conversations.
Outwardly, they slightly resemble the AirPods Pro with the bulb and stem design, and with the silicone earpiece… and believe it or not, that’s not subtle plagiarism, it’s a design feature. You see, by bridging the gap between medical devices and consumer-tech, the Olive P make it ‘cooler’ and less of a social stigma for the hearing impaired to wear these aids. Designed to help them blend into society, the Olive P’s consumer-centric aesthetic helps normalize an affliction. On the hardware front, the Olive P boasts of powerful drivers and microphones that work to seamlessly distinguish between noises, voices, and music. Advanced algorithms help cut noise, amplify voices, and provide the audio clarity required for both earphones as well as FDA-approved hearing aids. The Olive P earbuds have two modes – a Music Mode that’s best suited for audio streaming, and a Hear Mode, which augments audio from around you, letting you attenuate noise, boost vocals, and listen to external audio with crisp quality and at a higher volume.
What sets the Olive P apart is the way you use it. A powerful app gives you absolute control over your hearing experience, allowing you to tweak EQs, calibrate noise-canceling, and even introduce external sounds into your mix, so you can listen to music while still hearing what’s happening around you. Switch to Hear mode and the earbuds are a different beast altogether. The in-app hearing test calibrates each earbud to your hearing, amplifying audio to account for any hearing loss, and lets you choose what audio you want the earbuds to focus on – General, TV, or Conversations. Two multi-directional mics help the earbuds run their ANC algorithms (which are constantly improved thanks to machine learning), while also giving you the ability to have crystal clear conversations with people on calls or video-conferences.
In their bid to modernize hearing aids, the Olive P makes a conscious effort to stick to the consumer-tech approach. The earbuds come with a wireless charging case that gives them up to 20 hours of use, and are built to be IPx4 water-resistant, which means they’re okay to wear to the beach or the gym. Bluetooth 5.1 ensures a robust, unfaltering connection, while support for your phone’s native voice-assistant puts the Olive P at par with most TWS earbuds, and light-years ahead of most hearing aids. Besides, that $280 price tag really does wonders for making great tech accessible and affordable!