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Innovative headphones allowing to detect sound sources in the wearer's `blind spot´

Abstract

With the innovative filter element for headphones, the wearer can distinguish whether an external sound source approaches from the front or back and in general allows to localize sounds in the vertical plane. This innovation may prevent dangerous situations for traffic, for example if a vehicle is approaching in the back of the wearer. Any sound source, i.e. auditory object in the environment of the wearer can be precisely localized, especially auditory objects in the ´blind spot´ of the wearer.

Background

Headphones are small loudspeakers worn on or around the head covering the user's ears. They allow an individual user to listen to sounds privately, as opposed to a loudspeaker that radiates sounds to anyone nearby. Headphones are electroacoustic transducers that convert an electrical signal into a corresponding sound. As a result of the Walkman effect, headphones began to be used in public places such as sidewalks, grocery stores, and public transportation in the 1980s and are now widely used in the public.

The global market for headphones was worth around USD 25 billion in 2019 and is expected to continue to grow rapidly in the coming years at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20%. It is also assumed that consumers' increasing preference for stylish, attractive designs in particular will also boost sales.

Problem

When wearing headphones and playing a sound such as music, the auditory detection ability of the surroundings of the wearer is significantly limited. It is difficult or even impossible to distinguish whether an external sound source approaches from the front or back, i.e. the so called front-back confusion. That may cause dangerous situations for traffic, for example a vehicle approaching in the back of the wearer may not be detected. 

Solution

Figure: Sketch of a possible prototype headphone design with the innovative filtering element. In this example, the shape structures have the natural shape of a human ear. Other designs are possible. [Fig.: Timo Oess]
Figure: Sketch of a possible prototype headphone design with the innovative filtering element. In this example, the shape structures have the natural shape of a human ear. Other designs are possible. [Fig.: Timo Oess]

Advantages

  • Headphones avoid the so called front-back confusion
  • sound sources in the wearer's `blind spot´ can be precisely localized
  • different designs of the filtering element/shaped structures are possible
  • designed for more safety in public situations especially in traffic

Fields of application

Improvement of headphones, earspeakers, earphones or, colloquially, cans, circumaural ('around the ear'), supra-aural ('over the ear') headphones and also in- ear headphones, earbuds, earpieces, headsets or bone conduction headphones to avoid the so called front-back confusion

Exposé
Contact
Dr. Frank Schlotter
TLB GmbH
Ettlinger Straße 25
76137 Karlsruhe | Germany
Phone +49 721-79004-0
schlotter(at)tlb.de | www.tlb.de
Development Status
TRL 3
Patent Situation
EP 22152866.4 pending
Reference ID
21/056TLB
Service
The Technologie-Lizenz-Büro GmbH is in charge of the exploitation of this technology and assists companies in obtaining a license.