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Stealth Headphones

Listen to music without your employer/annoying acquiantance/significant other knowing about it
  [vote for,

I'm on hiatus from college and working various odd jobs. My last one was at a movie theater. For six hours a day I'd stand behind the concession counter (or rip tickets in the hallway). During the early hours of the day, the theater would be almost completely empty, and I'd just...stand there. For hours. If I could find a pen, I'd doodle on napkins, but that was rare.

It occured to me that bringing my portable CD/MP3 player would be a godsend -- the headphones wouldn't hinder my counter-cleaning or ticket-ripping duties, and on those occaisons in which I needed to hear what people were saying (I asked, "Sorry, was that a large popcorn or a medium?" often enough as it was) I could simply turn the volume down. There was only one problem: I wasn't allowed to bring headphones. Customers seeing me without headphones was more important to the managers than me not spending my days in torturous boredom.

Currently I'm employed in a somewhat better temp job, which pays somewhat more (and allows me to post ideas on the Halfbakery when I should be working), but it still consists mostly of rote work not requiring human contact or conversation, and I'm still not allowed to wear headphones.

Enter: the Stealth Headphone.

Phase one, possible with today's technology: The speaker looks like a hearing aid (it's subtle; most people will be too polite to even mention it). It communicates wirelessly with the radio/CD/MP3 player in your pocket.

Phase two, possible in a few years: The speakers (one for each ear) are thin transparent plastic-esque slips (maybe not completely transparent, though that would be cool) that are sticky on one side; you stick them on the back of your ear (speakers directed through the skin, perhaps, though of course there'd be a volume limit) or in your ear canal. Or maybe your ear *becomes* the speaker, pulsated by the plastic circle. Again, they communicate wirelessly -- both with each other and with a tiny controller that sticks to the bottom of your pocket and allows you to select songs, change volume, etc., with a single discrete finger. The controller either contains the songs itself, in its memory, or is wirelessly networked with your home computer and recieves its songs from there (or it has a wireless internet link, allowing you to stream music that you've subscibed to (or for free, a la Napster).

Phase 3, possible in a decade or two: The speakers are a transparent paste with constituent units about the size of white blood cells. Smear a bit in your ears and they self-organize into a nice acoustic configuration. The controller is tiny, transparent, and attatched to one of your fingers; tap on the counter in various patterns to change volume, switch songs, etc. (morse code? too complex, probably, but something could be devised). Alternately, if the controller is better at sensing where your finger is based on inertia, the countertop could become the control board -- assign various tabletop features as the virtual volume control, track switcher, etc., when you first turn on the system; and then just slide your finger to the left over the ancient Coke stain (for example) to turn down the sound.

Phase 4: A neural implant. Scary, somewhat dangerous, utterly unnecessary, but very, very cool. You hallucinate music. Just think the volume up or down.

Tlogmer, Mar 25 2002

Bone Conduction Headphone Crap http://www.halfbake...idea/www.dowumi.com
not quite there yet [quarterbaker, Mar 25 2002]

Bone Conduction Headphone Crap http://www.dowumi.com
Not quite there yet. [quarterbaker, Oct 04 2004]


       there are (or at least, used to be) speakers available that worked by bone conduction. They touched the mastoid bone behind your ear. If you had long hair, you could hide these things quite easily. I know that audiologists still use bone conduction speakers for testing. Commercial products are probably still available.

A link or two might appear.
quarterbaker, Mar 25 2002

       I doubt that a hearing aid transducer can reproduce music (which has a much broader frequency range than speech) with sufficient quality to be enjoyable. It will also be difficult to prevent such a small unit from leaking enough sound for the boss and customers to know the wearer is really listening to music (thus defeating the purpose). This is especially true for teenagers who insist on listening to music at ear-damaging loudness.   

       Everything past Phase 1 is what we at the HB generally consider Magic. Please explain how each of these magic technologies will work (and be implemented) or leave them out of your idea altogether.
BigBrother, Mar 25 2002

       The CIA/SOF world baked this idea a while ago (definately phase 1, and probably Phase 2). I doubt most of the general public could afford one.
dag, Mar 25 2002

       Phase 2, at least, seemed like a logical extrapolation of today's technology. As far as 3 and 4 go, the requisite ideas have been baked in science fiction for awhile now; obviously they are beyond current engineering capabilities but this is, after all, the *half*bakery.   

       And of course, all of this is assuming that the volume is not turned earsplittingly high.
Tlogmer, Mar 25 2002

       To elaborate further: there are several ways in which the speaker cells could self organize - for example, certain marker cells could array themselves stopping fixed distances along straight lines from a central point, creating a tron-like map of the ear's terrain. The concept is essentially the same as that of flocking road cones -- less outre`, in fact, since they need not be totally independent but can transmit their information to the pocket-residing controller. And I forgot to mention that they would migrate and rest against the eardrum, giving off their sounds from ultra-close range.   

       Admittedly, however, phase 2 had more than a few problems, so I've changed it somewhat.
Tlogmer, Mar 25 2002

       A thick celeb contestant on a TV comedy music quiz show I watched (Buzzcocks) generated much hilarity by assuming that Stealth planes were invisible. I think there was a blurred image in the video for 'Dancing in the Moonlight' which looked a little like a dark object was parked on the roof of the strange house. Anyway, that's just to explain that from the title, I thought this was oging to be about headphones made out of stealth Teflon or whatever it is that means radar can't find them, and that the misconception was that they're invisible to the naked eye too. </obligatory misurderstanding-of-title post>
sappho, Mar 26 2002

       What about that urban legend of someone's tooth brace that can pick up radio? If that really work, I see no reason you can not carry with you a FM transmitter for all your musically needs.
bing, Mar 26 2002

       Maybe ears are ripe for prosthetic replacement. Mine are always getting cold or sunburnt, and now have started to sprout hairs. It would be much easier to pack a decent audio system, RF receiver, and power source into the whole ear than a tiny aid device. When you get to be 85, people will start commenting on how well your ears have aged (but you won't hear due to the blaring Limp Bizkit).
spartanica, Mar 26 2002

       Dissolve the ferric oxide off some audio tape using acetone. Place a drop of this on each ear drum. Wind two coils over magnets and place under collar. Feed with amplifier driven from walkman.   

       You may have to carry a large battery to power the thing.
neelandan, Mar 27 2002


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