The multi-hyphenate celeb introduces her ‘Straight Ups’ Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses at CES.
LAS VEGAS—Thanks to a new set of connected sunglasses introduced at CES, you can now go from having a 1980s Paula Abdul pop hit stuck in your head to having 2023-vintage Paula Abdul-branded eyewear stuck on your nose.
The singer, dancer, choreographer, and TV personality showed up at a tech showcase Wednesday night hosted by the Pepcom PR firm to introduce “Straight Ups” Paula Abdul Signature Smart Audio Glasses.
These shades from 1of1Custom, a New York-based manufacturer of audio gear, listed at $249 but discounted to $199 at Abdul’s site, include Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, embedded speakers and two microphones for hands-free listening and talking.
The obvious use case would be hands-free phone calling without the dork factor of wearing a Bluetooth headset. But because going to CES means no home-cooked meals for a week, I first thought of listening to a podcast while stirring risotto.
Standing at the back of a ballroom in Caesars Palace, Abdul said she had thought of doing some kind of sunglasses line but was looking for a product partnership that “could be something really interesting, creative and cool for me.”
She touted the results of the partnership as a gadget that stays out of the way–very much the opposite of hefty augmented-reality glasses that have to include display hardware.
“They sit perfectly on the bridge of your nose with no pressure,” Abdul said. “I end up wearing them and forgetting that they’re on me.”
Recounting how she wore them while teaching a dance class outside, she noted that the glasses don’t shut out your acoustic surroundings: “You hear what you’re hearing, but you’re also aware of what’s around you.”
Trying them on in a room filled with journalists and publicists chatting over drinks, I could confirm that. Low frequencies sounded particularly faint unless I pressed the arms of the glasses to the sides of my head, but even in that noisy environment hearing voice content was no problem.
The hardware itself supports prescription lenses and doesn’t look too different from standard-issue sunglasses, aside from a dancing-Abdul-silhouette icon on one of the arms. The specs advertise a battery life of “up to 5.5 hours,” with recharging done via a proprietary cable—which may make this a nonstarter in the European Union.
There’s clearly some kind of a market for this, because not long after getting Abdul’s sales pitch I came across another Pepcom exhibitor with the same concept on display: Solos, a Hong Kong firm showing off its $299 Argon3 Smartglasses and touting a similar set of features.
Meanwhile, Amazon has been selling its Echo Frames audio glasses since 2020 and Facebook introduced its Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in 2021. But considering the current level of angst over Big Tech, Abdul’s brand may be in better shape than the public images of those companies.