Panasonic unveils bone conduction headphones prototype
Panasonic Corporation just introduced a new set of headphones that literally conduct sound through your skull. The headphones will be available to the public in the fall of 2013 and are aimed at people with highly active lifestyles.
To understand how the new headset from Panasonic would work is first to understand how sound travels, which for most of us is through vibrations conducted by the air. What Panasonic is claiming with their device is that your skull or tissue around the eardrum would become the conductor for the sound rather than the air around us. In fact, sound travels better through water or a solid object much better than open air.
While this technology may seem a bit ahead of its time, other companies are testing and exploring the concept of it as well. At the CES 2012, Kyocera unveiled a speakerless prototype smartphone. Instead of emitting a phone ring tone or music through a regular speaker, the entire phone vibrates with an oscillator much like a speaker cone would. In order to hear the phone one must place it directly to their head for the vibrations to be transferred to the eardrum and translated by the brain as sounds.
Panasonic's new headphone set is made to sit on the outside of your ear and then it vibrates the ear canal, which then translates to the eardrum or inner ear. According to Panasonic the sound quality is excellent but at the same time other ambient sounds are clearly heard around you. Those who have tried the technology explained that it is a bit getting used to at first because you have to ‘tune out’ those other sounds.
The technology may seem unnecessary to some readers, but it helps fix a lot of the current drawbacks with traditional headphones and speakers. For example, if you were at a loud construction site or an area with lot of background noise, you would still be able to hear their sounds since they transfer directly to the inner ear. This means the sounds could still be heard even if you were wearing hearing protection. Another issue would be using them in a motor vehicle to hear while staying focused on the highway. Some U.S. States ban the wearing of headphones while driving, but with these headphones you can still hear the sounds around you making them far safer to wear. Simply stated, these headsets are aimed at people on the go with highly active lifestyles.
These new headsets will be the first Bluetooth enabled, wireless, speakerless headphones currently available on the market, however, there are other brands out there with this same technology such as Aftershokz. that will be availale shortly. They should be available in the fall of 2013 and they will run on a single AAA battery. Cost of the headset was not disclosed but the company says they should be fewer than 300 U.S. dollars.