Noise-cancelling headphones and earphones are one of the best things to happen to personal audio systems. By emitting a noise that is capable of muffling the sounds around you, these headphones and earphones can drown out the drone of everyday life and make commuting an awful lot easier and more enjoyable. The user is also able to enjoy better quality sound, becoming immersed in their music even on the busiest of streets.
The main flaw, however, is that cutting off one of our most important senses can be quite dangerous. If you’re crossing a road without looking, you might not hear the car behind you. If you’re cycling on a road, you might not hear vehicles beeping to warn you of something dangerous. On paper, it sounds like a pretty bad idea.
Amazon is solving that, however. A new patent from the company was received early in July that shows a system that will automatically detect certain key phrases or sounds, and shut off the muffling system briefly so that the user can hear them. So for instance, a user will be able to programm their headphones to listen out for the honk of a car horn, or for somebody calling their name.
When the microphone in the special pair of headphones, or perhaps the device it is connected to, hears that specific sound, a signal will be sent to the muffling sounds to shut off. This makes it possible to hear your friends calling your name and allows you to be more alert in potentially dangerous situations.
The patent could revolutionize the industry, and combined with the fact that headphone makers are soon going to be moving away from 3.5mm headphone jacks and instead building more Bluetooth, USB C and Lightning headsets, now is an interesting time for personal audio. Everything’s changing and perhaps that’s a good thing.
This new system could literally save your life, or perhaps it will just make it easier when you’re on your daily commute. Either way, it’s pretty genius, right?