Harman’s new headphone tech could save lives

Harman has unveiled brand new headphone technology that could significantly improve road safety and save lives. Unveiled at CES on a pair of the company’s N60 headphones, the new technology lets users listen to music as normal, but cuts the volume when specific sounds are heard. The result? Users will be more aware of their environment in critical situations such as road-crossing – potentially reducing the amount of traffic accidents.

While Harman envisages the app will be used primarily for critical noises, the technology can also be used to detect names. That means it could be used in anything from car journeys to flights, keeping wearers immersed in music until their name is called. In effect, Harman has used machine learning to imitate the brain’s “cocktail party effect.”

How do they work?

Harman’s headphones work using a combination of existing hardware and sophisticated software. Like noise cancelling headphones, Harman’s new tech uses a microphone, and scans for up to ten key sounds or “audio triggers” – all of which can customised with a counterpart app. That means the headphones actively cancel all irrelevant noises, but fast-track all important ones. This new technology forms part of the company’s audio augmented reality (AAR) development, which will form a large part of its other CES announcements.

While there’s no word on release yet, Harman has licensed the tech to Bowers & Wilkins and JBL – and also owns Bang & Olufsen Automotive, so you can expect to see it on some high-end listening gear soon.

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