This new system turns “dumb” headphones into smart ones

Chances are you’ve got a couple pairs of old-school very basic headphones lying around the place. They’ve got cords, no microphones, no on-board controls, no noise reduction, and don’t respond to any touch or voice commands.

Now, though, Rutgers University in New Jersey is working on some tech called HeadFi that will make these dumb headphones smart. The engineers are developing a plug-in module that lies between the music source (your phone, for example) and your headphones or earbuds.

When you put the headphones on or earbuds in, your ears are sealed in an airtight cavity. Because of that, your ears become very sensitive to air pressure. Vibrations caused by the pulsing blood in your ear then be measured by the speaker drivers. That not only means HeadFi can measure your heartbeat, but by just touching outside of the headphone cup, you can have actions assigned to those gestures. For example, tap once and the music pauses. Tap twice and it starts up again–all from some headphones never manufactured with these functions.

And because each of us has totally unique ears, they can be used to identify who is wearing them.

Read more at New Atlas.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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