Amazon is looking at revolutionising headphones
A good set of headphones will be comfortable, have super sound quality and block out the outside world. While the first two points are objectively important, the third has a fairly crucial drawback: sometimes you need to snap back to reality in order not to step in front of a speeding ambulance, for example.
A patent filed by Amazon suggests that the retail giant is at least considering how the problem could be tackled, and it’s a rather clever solution. Microphones built into the earpads will fill in for your actual ears while they’re distracted, listening out for danger or other noise patterns or keywords – “look out” or even somebody saying your name. If the microphone picks up on that, the headphones will cut out, snapping you back to reality and maybe saving your life in the process.
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This is less new technology than existing ideas being repurposed for another goal. Amazon Echo already listens out for vocal prompts, so the technology exists. As CNET notes, one of the names listed on the patent – Benjamin Scott – was part of the Alexa Information team that worked on the technology in Echo.
As good an idea as the whole thing sounds (although on paper, almost anything can sound like a good idea), it is currently just a patent, and history is littered with patents that never made the cut. Still, it’s reassuring to know that companies are considering the risks involved in deliberately hobbling one of our senses, seeing as historically it’s done a pretty good job of keeping us alive.
Image: Craig Cloutier, used under Creative Commons