Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying out a Bluetooth headset from Plantronics called the Voyager PRO UC v2. Plantronics bills this as a next-generation device which offers Smart Sensor technology, outstanding audio quality, and superior call management. Another interesting feature of the device is the integration with Plantronics’ Spokes SDK which allows you to access headset events and contextual usage data from within your applications.
Just about anyone who has shopped around for Bluetooth headsets will be familiar with the design of the Voyager PRO UC. It features an over-the-ear design with a rotating boom microphone that easily accommodates wearing on the right or left ear. Volume buttons are conveniently located at the top of the device while the power button is on the back at the bottom. Inside the box were 3 different sizes of earpieces and a leather carrying case. The headset charges using a standard micro-USB port located on the bottom of the unit. One other important thing included in the box is the small USB adapter that enables the headset to connect with your computer. The adapter comes pre-paired with the headset so you don’t need to fumble around with the Bluetooth settings on your computer to get up and running. Once connected to the USB adapter, the headset will be able to relay information to the computer that can be leveraged using the Spokes SDK.
All of the technological advances in the world won’t mean a thing for a Bluetooth headset if the audio quality isn’t great. Thankfully, the Voyager PRO UC v2 excels in this area. Both incoming and outgoing audio from this device are stellar. One person I called even said they had no idea I was using a headset. Noise cancellation (referred to as AudioIQ2 noise canceling technology in Plantronics’ literature) seems to be working great on this device as I tried a few calls in somewhat noisy environments and the person on the other end didn’t complain about background noise. The “WindSmart technology” is something I was very eager to try out since most headsets have major problems with wind. I tried the Voyager PRO UC v2 on a few very windy days and again, the headset held up to the challenge. It is definitely one of the best headsets I’ve tried in terms of audio quality.
The technological aspects of this device are where it really shines. The Voyager PRO UC v2 has Smart Sensor™ technology that enables the headset to transmit contextual information to the computer. While communicating with the USB adapter, the headset will report a variety of information such as proximity, battery level, and whether or not the device is being worn. Since the device is able to detect whether it is on ear or not, it is capable of automatically transferring calls from your phone to the headset without needing to press a button. When streaming audio over A2DP, removing the headset will smartly pause the music. This all works out of the box without any need for additional programming.
However, the combination of sensors providing contextual data and the various amount of information available through the APIs in the Spokes SDK offers up a variety of potential application scenarios. The information accessible through the Spokes SDK includes: wearing state, proximity, caller ID and call management, unique ID of the device, and device usage stats. You can also send commands to the device using the Spokes SDK. The different types of applications that can potentially be developed using this SDK are described nicely in this post on the Plantronics’ blogs. A white paper for the Spokes SDK describes the benefits applications can gain by leveraging the contextual data provided by these smart devices.
I tried the SDK out for myself. To get started, I needed to obtain the Spokes SDK from the Plantronics Developer Connection (PDC) which can be found at developer.plantronics.com. The PDC contains a variety of resources including documentation, forums, blogs, as well as many samples. A great place to get started once you have installed the Spokes SDK is the DevZone where you’ll find a curated list of samples and documentation.
My next challenge was getting the spokes.js file to work within the confines of WinJS. After a bit of wrestling with jQuery and WinJS interaction, I was able to get some parts of the API to work. I was not able to get event polling to work, but this is not a problem with the Spokes REST API, it’s a problem in my port of spokes.js. Given a bit more time, I’m certain I’ll be able to get things fully functioning in WinJS. For now, here’s a screenshot to prove you can talk to the device in a Windows Store application!:
Overall, this is a great device. Even without the SDK and smart sensors it is one of the best headsets I have tried. The audio quality, noise cancellation, and wind protection are top-notch for this type of device. Add to this all of the tech smarts and you have a device that is very unique in the field. Plantronics has also recently released the Voyager Legend UC which promises to provide even better quality and more contextual information out of the box.
I would highly recommend developers check out these smart devices and the Spokes SDK. The APIs exposed by the SDK will allow you to develop some really cool applications that take advantage of the data provided by the sensors in the headset.
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