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Loose Cannon Systems has begun shipping its Milo wearable action communicators as reimagined walkie-talkies for outdoor adventurers.
You can use them to speak with groups of friends and family while you ride, surf, ski and more. The Milo communicator is hands-free, phone-free, and requires no Wi-Fi or cell signal. It also has some cool AI technology built into it.
Loose Cannon Systems first unveiled the Milo as part of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in October 2020. But it took a couple of years to get out the door thanks in part to supply-chain challenges during the pandemic.
“We’re finally in mass production,” said Loose Cannon Systems CEO Peter Celinski said in an interview with VentureBeat. “The supply chain has been crazy for everybody over the last couple of years. We have been very fortunate in our relationships through our investors.”
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The company is shipping first to those who ordered 17,000 units via the Kickstarter campaign. And then it is going to ship to retail in the second half of December. It is now taking preorders for online sales.
Celinski got the idea for Milo as a novice skier (he grew up in Australia). He followed his children down Whistler Mountain in Canada. Then he realized he couldn’t communicate with them as they outpaced him. And he saw that walkie-talkies would have the range or the practicality — ever try to use one while skiing? — on the mountain.
“Outdoor sports is where we are focused,” Celinski said. “It makes sense during this stage of the pandemic as we have seen a massive shift to outdoor activities. Ski season is shaping up to be massive. Knock on wood.”
Celinski that the $250 device (229 euros) takes advantage of technologies such as mesh wireless networks and AI to go beyond the walkie-talkie and enable simple, multi-way group voice conversations in the moments that matter most, transforming outdoor adventures on the trails, slopes, or water.
Made for adventure enthusiasts, Milo integrates a variety of patented world-first features to deliver high-quality natural conversation, packaged in a simple and beautiful design. By clipping Milo to bike handlebars, a jacket pocket or bag strap, a group can instantly communicate handsfree, eyes free and phone free. This “in the moment” conversation revolutionizes the adventure experience.
Loose Cannon Systems raised $2.6 million in the Kickstarter campaign.
Milo has been selected as one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2022 and received top honors in the
world’s two most important design competitions, winning the IDEA Gold Award for 2022 and the
Red Dot: Best-of-the-Best Product Design Award for 2022.
Multiple athletes, film producers, and adventurers have used Milos and the feedback has been good.
“In the mountains, communication is everything. Milo allows us to stay connected and share the fun while we ride,” said Michelle Parker, Red Bull athlete and pro skier, in a statement. “Revolutionary.”
And Gabe Ferguson, pro snowboarder, said in a statement, “Dropping into a crazy line while talking on Milo with my buddies completely changes the experience. Epic times ahead with Milo, this changes everything.”
Celinski demoed the product to me. I wore a Milo on my jacket and he put one on his. He paired it easily and I got an audio prompt when he was added to my conversation. He started walking away and kept talking as he did so. The connection eventually dropped, but only after Milo told me that he had dropped from the conversation.
How it works
When a user speaks, Milo picks up the voice and transmits it to others without the need to stop to push a button. Others in the group hear the received voices over the built-in speaker or connected headset.
Sophisticated audio processing algorithms are combined with six integrated digital microphones and a custom built-in speaker to deliver clear voice even in windy or noisy conditions or when moving at high speed. Milo may optionally be connected to a Bluetooth or wired headset and is also waterproof and rugged.
Milo provides a range of over 2,000 feet (600 meters) between any two Milo devices in the group (terrain dependent). The proprietary and encrypted MiloNet mesh network extends the range (daisy-chain style) for everyone in the group if three or more members are spread out further.
Milo’s features include multi-way group full-duplex voice, meaning two-way phone quality. It has a MiloNet proprietary mesh network that extends he range for groups of three or more. It is waterproof IP67 rated and tested to three-meter depths for short durations. It is rugged and impact resistant.
And it’s engineered to provide loud and clear voice even in noisy outdoor conditions, enabled by advanced proprietary wind and acoustic noise reduction algorithms. It has a custom built-in speaker to make Milo loud and clear, and it’s encrypted and secure. No Wi-Fi or mobile signal required as Milo devices establish their own network. As an option, Milo may be connected to a Bluetooth or wired headset.
Milo uses network event notifications to provide situational awareness with audible notifications like “Sam has joined the group.” If someone leaves the group, you might consider whether someone got left behind because of a fall on the slopes. It operates all day on a battery charge.
“It’s been an incredibly tough journey over the last couple of years,” Celinski said. “You could imagine what it was like for a company like ours. We focused on the quality.”
The device has a quad-core Arm-based processor running at over a gigahertz and it runs Linux with modular software.
Celinski said the company is thinking of new software features that it will ship in the future, some that help exploit the tech in the device. Theoretically, a device with sensors could detect if someone fell, or at least they went from going 35 miles per hour to zero in a very short time.
“While you’re outdoors, you still want to communicate with people around you. That’s kind of the fundamental value proposition,” he said. “And then we expand on that.”
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