Intel's Smart Earbuds change the music when you're not working out hard enough

Apple and Android-friendly, Intel's pulse-monitoring headphones will get you running faster by automatically switching to a more energetic song
Intel Smart Earbuds

Of Intel's many intriguing wearable tech launches yesterday, the Smart Earbuds piqued our interest the most. 

Why? Because in order to listen to music while exercising, you need a music source and you need headphones. But in order to get accurate workout data, you need a heart rate monitor. The Smart Earbuds add that functionality without the need for any extra boxes or batteries - and they switch to a faster tune if you're not putting your back into your exercise. Here's how.

They look like spaceships

Intel Smart Earbuds Nexus 5
Intel Smart Earbuds iPhone 5s

As reference designs, the Smart Earbuds are supposed to be used as a proof of concept for Intel's (as yet unannounced) partners to turn into saleable items. Which is a good thing, as we're not completely sold on the sci-fi looks.

Still, the insides are clever. In the right earbud there's an optical heart rate monitor twinned with an accelerometer which normalises the data the HRM sends down the headphone cable to the phone. The whole setup uses just 0.5mW of electricity, which is apparently less than an in-line microphone.

The Smart Earbuds will be compatible with any phone that can provide power via it headphone jack. We saw it working on an iPhone 5s and a Google Nexus 5, but most other modern smartphones will be supported.

As for apps, Intel has designed its own for Android that analyses the beats per minute of the tracks in your playlists. If your heart rate is below your target during a workout, it'll select a new, faster track to spur you on.

We also saw it working with RunKeeper on iOS, and Intel tells us that any app fitness could be made to work with them.

How do they sound?

Intel Smart Earbuds
Intel Smart Earbuds

We don't know - we weren't able to try them on. But at this stage sound quality's not the point - that's a quantity for Intel's partners to deal with.

Pricing and availability is also understandably not yet available, but Smartbud-based designs will be on the market by the end of 2014. Good stuff.

CES 2014 - all the biggest news so far, live from Vegas