Wacky French tech company Parrot — the same folks who brought us the AR.Drone and AR.Drone 2.0 flying quadricopters — has now dipped its fingers into the headphone market. The Parrot Zik wireless headphones have been designed specifically for smartphone users and are packed full of some very cool technology.
An NFC (Near Field Communications) chip, swipe touch sensitive controls and a jawbone sensor. This doesn't sound like the specifications sheet of a set of headphones, but that's exactly what's built into the Parrot Zik. Along with active noise cancelling, a DSP effect called "Parrot Concert Hall" and a presence-sensor, the Parrot Zik headphones are certainly different.
The Parrot Zik is the first pair of headphones to feature an NFC chip. This enables you to tap an NFC compatible smartphone against the side of the headphones to immediately pair the two devices. However, the NFC feature is initially only compatible with two smartphones, the BlackBerry Curve and the Nokia N9.
Parrot has confirmed the Zik's software will be updated in the coming months to support various other NFC compatible smartphones like Samsung's Galaxy S III, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the HTC One X, but it has not provided a time frame as to when this will happen.
The Parrot Zik headphones come with an active noise cancelling system that insulates from surrounding noise. In addition to the noise cancellation, Parrot also includes a DSP algorithm called "Parrot Concert Hall" that aims to create the effect of being at a concert. Users can alter the acoustics and adjust an equaliser through the dedicated Parrot Zik app, which will be available on both the iOS app store and Google's Play Store.
The Parrot Zik headphones are controlled entirely using a touch panel on the surface of the right earpiece. Volume is controlled by swiping the panel vertically to set the volume and tracks can be skipped by swiping horizontally. Further, the Zik headphones will automatically pause your music when they are removed from your ears due to the inclusion of a presence-sensor on the inside of the ear cup.
The Parrot Zik headphones have four microphones built-in to handle voice calls over Bluetooth. There's also a jawbone sensor that Parrot says allows the unit to distinguish your voice from background noise and enable clearer phone calls.
Parrot says the battery of the Zik will last for up to five hours of music playback on a full charge and will charge in around an hour and a half. An included 3.5mm cable means you can use the Zik headphones as traditional wired headphones even when the battery runs out, but you'll obviously lose the active noise cancelling and Bluetooth features.
The Parrot Zik headphones will be available in Australia from August for $499. The headphones will be sold through Apple Stores, leading consumer stores, concept stores and Hi-Fi stores.