Branded headphone maker SMS Audio plugs Intel optical sensor tech into a pair of earbuds

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To this point, the 50 Cent-sponsored SMS Audio could have charitably been described as an also-ran in the branded headphones space that Beats Electronics defined. But a new pair of earbuds with built-in biometric sensors could be changing the company’s fortunes.

SMS Audio, in cooperation with Intel, announced the BioSport In-Ear Headphones on Thursday. It’s a product that marks one of the first times a sensor-based wearable device has been distributed and designed with the same brand-first approach that made Beats into a billion dollar company.

The SMS BioSport earbuds not only pump music but also can track physical activity with an optical light sensor built into the earbud. The earbuds can monitor heart rate, sending that data to the Runkeeper phone app, with potentially more supported apps in the future.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the BioSport earbuds are the commercial version of the prototype smart earbuds Intel debuted at CES. The optical sensor technology used in those Intel earbuds is now embedded into an SMS Audio product.

The BioSport earbuds are powered from your handset’s audio jack. That means these headphones, unlike other similar devices like LG’s Heart Rate Earphones, won’t need a separate battery that requires regular charging. It also means that someone buying these earbuds could conceivably use them like a standard pair of earbuds, skipping the biometric sensing features.

Unlike the Intel prototype, the SMS Audio BioSport is ready for the masses: It’s waterproof, uses a rubber earbud hook to better stay in place during workouts, and perhaps most importantly, has the endorsement of celebrities like NBA star Carmelo Anthony that can help win over the hearts of consumers who already know perfectly well what Beats headphones are.

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Neither Intel nor SMS Audio have announced a price, but the headphones are expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.

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