As a species, we've nailed communication in cities. Smartphones, wireless networks and wi-fi abound. But now that more of us are thinking of getting out of cities, whether for getaway jaunts or for good, a device that lets you communicate with your companions off-grid would be ideal. Think of that magic earpiece all of the Avengers have, where they can all always hear each other while they tackle baddies.
A new product called Milo aims to be that. Unlike a walkie-talkie, it's unobtrusive and hands-free; clip the magnetic mount onto your clothes or strap it onto a body part and you're good to go. Beyond the convenience, the device harnesses technology to improve sound quality, which is often less than ideal when outdoors.
Traditional walkie-talkies suffer from severe limitations: you have to push-to-talk, only one person at a time can talk (half-duplex), poor audio quality, no wind noise suppression and they are often hard to use. Not to mention, most are bulky and heavy and conversations are not private.
Milo integrates six high-performance digital microphones and a powerful speaker so you can be heard clearly and hear everyone in your group, even in noisy outdoor environments: sophisticated audio signal processing algorithms suppress wind and other background noise.
Furthermore, for those of us who have experienced hearing loss, Milo can be paired with a conventional Bluetooth speaker for getting that voice right into your ear.
The range is said to be 2,000 feet between any two units, and is functionally extended when your group spreads out; i.e. if you're 2,000 feet away from a friend, and a third Milo-using friend is 2,000 feet beyond that, all three of you can still communicate.
I like that the designers have thought the UX through. For instance, I could picture pairing a device like this between multiple people to be a pain, but the procedure here is simple:
It seems easy to get the thing on and off:
I'm thankful that the designers did not make it round, but had it come to a point, which should make the volume controls easy to locate by touch:
The designers have also addressed one of my pet peeves with outdoor products: "The buttons have been designed to work well with gloves - down to small but important details like the definition of the top edges to catch a gloved finger."
And it is, of course, waterproof.
Here's the pitch video:
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As I started writing this post, Milo had been successfully Kickstarted with about $170,000 on a $100,000 goal. But in the past few minutes the ticker has shot up to $205,286 at press time. If this thing works as well as claimed, I think the developers will have a hit on their hands.
At press time there were still 36 days left to pledge.
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I think the push-to-talk element of a traditional walkie talkie is critical to its use on a job site. There has to be some way to toggle whether or not you are broadcasting a signal. I’m sure there’s a way to deactivate this device, but not in a hands-free way. It would be awfully annoying to hear every little thing that the entire crew is doing throughout the day.
I agree with the comment that there needs to be a way to turn it off, or I believe it will interrup the pure joy and freedom of the outdoor experience. However, it could be the pursuit of the product to cater to the communication habit people have developed since the online social network dominated modern life: each member stays connected all the time. Compared to the generations that take walkie-talkie as a necessary outdoor communication device, which doesn't need to keep broadcasting everything during outdoor activities, not to mention to broadcast to the whole group, this product is supporting people to share what they are doing instantly while standing by for a showing in an audio way, wherever they are. Do we really want that?