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Play it Safe: Invisible Headphone System Set To Decrease Number Of Muggings For MP3 Players

Reece Myers, a graduate from Brunel University, has designed Discreet Sound System, a wireless speaker that sits inside a users hat or headband, rather than inside the ears. The speaker fits against the side of the user's head, above the ear, and transmits sound by bone conduction. Because the speaker is hidden from view, those around the wearer won't know that they are carrying a media player - making them a less obvious target for muggers.

How does it work?
Discreet Sound System uses bone conduction to transmit sound, a method more commonly used within hearing aids. Bone conduction transfers sound waves by vibrating the bones in the head. Sound is not passed into your ear canal, but instead conducts through the bone in your skull, moving from the vibrating part of the earphones, through your skull, to the cochlea, missing out the outer and middle ears completely.

The sound system consists of an inch-long, thin pad. Only one pad is required to produce the same sound quality as a pair of traditional headphones.

The sound system operates wirelessly, using a Bluetooth connection between the headphone output socket on the MP3 player and the pad. Lack of wires and ear buds makes the speaker virtually invisible to others.

Not seen and not heard
As well as being invisible to others, the Discreet Sound System ensures that the media player remains unheard by others too. The pad contains microphones that monitor external noise and maintain a volume that only the wearer can hear. Therefore, if the user is in a quiet environment, such as a train carriage, or library, those sitting next to the user won't be disturbed.

In addition, as the design has no ear buds, it doesn't block the eardrums. This means that the speaker does not cut out environmental noises such as approaching cars. This reduces the dangers traditionally associated with listening to music while on the street.

By making the speaker, and therefore, the media player, as inconspicuous as possible, Reece hopes the Discreet Sound System will reduce the number of muggings carried out against young people. It was witnessing such a mugging that first inspired his design - Reece explains:

“The idea to design the Discreet Sound System came to me after seeing a guy at a train station being held at knife point for his MP3 player. The headphones made it obvious that he was carrying a well-known MP3 player. I realised that users of MP3 players would be a lot safer if they could listen to their music without anyone else knowing about it, so I developed an alternative sound system that remains hidden - only you will know that you are carrying an expensive media player.“

“I am looking for companies to help me take my design into production,“ Reece continues. “The technology could definitely help to decrease the number of muggings that are taking place for MP3 players, making users feel a lot safer. The design also has additional applications for the workplace which I hope to explore.“

Paul Turnock, Design Director, Brunel University comments: “Reece has designed a system which not only makes those carrying and using media players safer, but also improves the social environment for those around them. Given the soaring numbers of people using MP3 players today, Reece's design has the potential to be a hit.“