25 August 2013

Man implants magnetic headphones, becomes music cybernetic organism

If high-quality headphones are too big and bulky for you — or ruin your marvelous hair — and you’re sick of having to replace earbuds every few months because the wires inevitably break in some fashion, Rich Lee has a solution for you. Mr. Lee implanted magnetic headphones into his ears.

The idea behind Lee’s implants isn’t actually too complicated, though it’s definitely not for the squeamish. The magnetic implants work similarly to the bone vibration method we see in so many movies and video games today, which is actually available in real-life products such as Google’s Glass. Rather than vibrating your facial bones, the magnets are stimulated using a magnetic coil — conveniently disguised as a necklace — that is hooked up to an amplifier.

Thankfully, you don’t need to cut open your earlobes and implant magnets to get the headphones working — as you can simply create earbuds out of them — but then you wouldn’t have secret headphones, and you could’ve just bought some earbuds in the first place. Perhaps surprisingly, Lee went through with the project himself, which makes these headphones a DIY endeavor, one that we highly recommended you don’t try at home.

Basically, that’s the project. Quite simple, right? However, Lee has some more complex and intriguing plans for his system. Aside from just listening to music or podcasts, he plans to also use the earlobe-phones in conjunction with his phone’s GPS so he can get directions beamed right into his head. Perhaps a little worrisome amidst this whole NSA spying scandal, Lee plans to hook up the earlobe-phones to a directional microphone in order to listen in on conversations. He even envisions connecting the directional microphone to a voice stress analysis app running on a phone to help suss out if people are lying.

If that weren’t enough, Lee feels he can create an echolocation system for his earlobe-phones. By connecting the rig to an ultrasonic range finder, the magnetic earpieces will hum whenever objects get close, which sounds like a feature straight out of a survival-horror video game. Aside from just being a cool way to, for example, see in the dark, this feature could help people who are blind navigate the world a little better as well.

Currently, the rig isn’t perfect, as different stimuli — such as sticking something in your ear — affect the quality of the sound. However, if your head had built-in headphones, you wouldn’t really need to keep something in your ear for very long. There are other issues at hand as well; you can’t remove the magnets after all, and that won’t always be ideal. An MRI wouldn’t be thrilled about having a couple of magnets inside, nor would your ears be thrilled about being around high-powered magnets.

A less intrusive project in a similar vein can be found on Instructables, which is where Lee got the idea for his implants. We follow the transhumanist movement quite a bit, and you could call Lee’s ear-magnets part of that movement. However, you probably shouldn’t call his project a do-it-yourselfer, because then you might inspired people to cut open their ears and put magnets inside of them.

Now read: Gold nanoparticle artificial skin could sense touch, humidity, temperature all at the same time.


  1. Why this doesn't have more views is absurd. It's sad how little the public knows about cybernetics, when it is such a relevant and ubiquitous part of our contemporary lives.


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