I frequently talk about events or products that seem to herald this long-awaited concept appropriately called The Future. In The Future, exceptional yet everyday people may colonize space or we may all be trained to fortify our minds against the threat of being incepted. In short, I like The Future because it's a place I'd like to visit someday.
As we slouch onward toward The Future, sometimes The Future meets us halfway and gives us a sample of amazing things to come. The latest teaser from the land of tomorrow promises us that, believe it or not, we will be able to listen to sound without our eardrums.
Did you blink at that? Yes. Your eyes have not pranked you.
Consumer electronics company AfterShokz have developed the next generation of headphones that use what they call "bone conduction headphone technology." In lay terms, you don't actually insert these headphones into your ears but rather place them in front of your ears so that the the headphones rest on your cheekbones. AfterShokz explains the science on their site:
Most of what we hear is due to sound waves traveling through the air to the eardrum, which then converts the sound waves to vibrations and transmits them to the inner ear. Sound waves can also get to the inner ear through direct vibration of the bones in the head which carry the vibrations directly to the inner ear, bypassing the eardrums. This is how a person hears his or her own voice, and also how whales hear. This pathway of sound is known as bone conduction.
You've likely heard the remarkable story of Beethoven composing music despite being nearly completely deaf. As it turns out, he wasn't completely deaf - he could hear the music by biting a rod attached to his piano, which transmitted the music through his jawbone. The technology, AfterShokz says, works the same way.
This technology, which is patent pending, originated when AfterShokz created headphones using "bone conduction technology" for use by military special ops and SWAT teams (the military always get to play with the funnest toys first, don't they?). By leaving the ears unobstructed by traditional headphones, AfterShokz headphones permitted the service members to listen to their surroundings while also staying in touch with the members of their unit via headphones.
So yeah. I can't really wrap my mind around the concept but there it is: the Future hath cometh, and with it the ability to give us a virtual second set of ears. Those extra ears will come in three comfortable models: Sport Headphone, Mobile with In-Line Mic, and Game Headphone. I'm kind of gobsmacked just thinking about the medical and architectural applications of this technology; it feels like too elegant of a device to merely use for the purpose of music or podcasts. But at any rate, we inch ever closer to The Future thanks to the technological genius of companies like AfterShokz.