Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sound of Silence

Besides porn, music has been the biggest driver of technological advancement. Ever since the Victrola, the latest sound system has driven consumer electronic sales. All the while the world has gotten progressively noisier. Locomotion, automation, overpopulation, mechanization, urbanization and countless other “izations” have created a continual sonorous assault.

Rather than alleviating my auditory pain, today my technology amplifies
it. Are ear buds really the best we can do? While exercising, I can barely hear my Market Place podcasts over the clamor of the treadmills. I know this may have something to do with my birth date and a million logged flight miles, but there must be something to help. Forget the jetpacks, where’s my bionic ear.

New gadgets hit the market daily that are meant to address the challenge of hearing our music, cell phones and neighbors over the ambient noise that envelops us. Proud technologists proclaim advances in adaptive noise compensation, advanced wind protection, noise navigation, voice capture, etc.

None of it does the job. Here is what I want--

  • wireless, in-ear hearing extensions:

    + Mold them to fit comfortably all day in my ear canal. Make them no more unsightly than flaps of cartilage that already protrude from my head. Yes the model is hearing aids, not headphones.

    + Make them work intelligently with my ear. You can completely control what noise goes to my ear drums and inner ear: make it clean and ensure it is never a damaging volume.

    + Have them work wirelessly with my myriad devices: cell phone, computer, IPod, home theater, car navigation, and other people with inserted ear extensions, etc. This is not a technological problem but an implementation problem. I don’t care what is used, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 900 Mhz, or trained ants delivering little tiny mag tapes. Create an interface (user and network) that makes sense and get on with it.

That’s it. Doesn’t seem that hard. Nothing but hearing aids with wireless receivers combined with a voice recognition operating system in a miniaturized embedded system. I have a place for the charger on my bed stand. When they are announced I will stand in line like a Star Wars conventioneer in a Wookie costume. Look at how many IPods and cell phones are sold each year. This is a massive business opportunity and, given the rate of hearing loss, one potentially fueled by insurance reimbursements.

Ear implants are the most obvious technology to extend my physical capabilities. Steve Austin can keep his legs, but it is time I had his ears.

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