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ByteDance acquired earbud maker Oladance for future hardware, Bloomberg reports

Tan KW
Publish date: Tue, 21 May 2024, 07:02 PM
Tan KW
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 ByteDance Ltd has acquired Chinese earphone maker Oladance for around US$50 million , its latest step towards developing wearable devices that could become the next home for its tech after smartphones.

TikTok’s Chinese owner has finalised the deal and dispatched staff to work with the Shenzhen-based start-up founded five years ago, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified. The acquisition brings on board a team of seasoned former Bose Corp engineers, which has been developing a series of earphones that wrap around the wearer’s ear.

ByteDance is exploring new hardware categories much as US social media rivals Snap Inc and Meta Platforms Inc have done with their connected smart glasses - looking for an extension of its social ecosystem beyond the phone. ByteDance management sees the potential to turn wearables into a platform for generative artificial intelligence (AI) services, one of the people said. Its Doubao chatbot recently surpassed Baidu Inc’s Ernie to become China’s most downloaded ChatGPT-style app.

With the ascent of AI, new products like the Humane AI Pin are also showing a path towards novel form factors for staying connected, though smart earbuds that combine voice controls with onboard AI are a nascent category. Much like Apple Inc’s AirPods and Apple Watch, the most advanced wearable technology today still relies heavily on the smartphone, though various bits of discrete functionality are now being offloaded onto the accessories directly.

ByteDance and Oladance did not respond to queries about the deal first reported by local trade media.

The world’s most valuable start-up is no stranger to experimenting in search of the next must-have gadget and gear, albeit with limited success to date. In 2021, ByteDance acquired Pico, a Chinese maker of virtual reality headsets, but the company last year trimmed that business down as part of a broader retreat in video-gaming. It has also delved into areas like robotics and education tech gadgets through in-house development or investments.

Oladance’s earbuds are designed to keep users aware of their surroundings during activities like running and workouts. Its main line of earphones, the OWS series, are priced from US$130 to US$230, according to its website.

 


  - Bloomberg

 

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