Headphones are great for listening to music, but also mean that you can't hear what's going on around you. New technology from Harman, however, could change this. Its Audio Augmented Reality (AAR) allows users to hear specific external sounds, such as your name being called.
The concept is similar to that employed by the SoundBrake device, which mutes headphones when it detects external noises. Unlike the SoundBrake, though, AAR will be built into the headphones themselves and can allow users to be selective about what external sounds they hear.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
In order achieve this, Harman's Active Listening technology is first used to identify specific sounds, such as a cycle bell or a train announcement tone. In the event that the external sound has been specified as one that the user should hear, music volume is turned down and the sound is relayed through the headphones. Other external noises, however, are blocked out, allowing the user to listen to their music and only be alerted to other specified noises.
Harman is debuting its new AAR technology in two pairs of prototype headphones at CES. The AKG N60 headphones are designed to lower the volume of what is being listened to when the wearer's name is called, making them well suited for use in an office. The JBL Everest headphones, meanwhile, have an accompanying app which allows users to specify up to 10 trigger sounds that will be relayed to the listener.
Harman says it is planning to run an Indiegogo campaign to evaluate the market potential for the new technology, which it says is about 1-2 years away from being launched in a product.
The video below shows how AAR technology can be used.