Three Headphones You Probably Didn't Expect

Harman Audio Augmented Reality
Still in it's initial stages of release (evidently there will be an Indigogo campaign), this new type of noise canceling headphone selectively cancels or amplifies outside sound permitting you to both isolate yourself from outside noise and let you hear the thing you need to be aware of. Pretty cool, I'll certainly try to get my hands on a pair when the time comes. Website here.

Click here if you don't see the video.

Nervana Vagus Nerve Stimulating Headphone

This upcoming device works like a pair of IEMs but includes and addition small electronic unit to convert audio into a stimulation signal that is applied through the left earpiece. This signal is intended to stimulate the vagus nerve that travels near the ear, and according to Wikipedia:

The vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to all the organs except the suprarenal (adrenal) glands, from the neck down to the second segment of the transverse colon.

This means that the vagus nerve is responsible for such varied tasks as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth, including speech (via the recurrent laryngeal nerve). It also has some afferent fibers that innervate the inner (canal) portion of the outer ear (via the auricular branch, also known as Alderman's nerve) and part of the meninges. This explains why a person may cough when tickled on the ear, such as when trying to remove ear wax with a cotton swab.

[later in the article regarding vagus nerve stimulation] Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy using a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest is a treatment used since 1997 to control seizures in epilepsy patients and has recently[dated info] been approved for treating drug-resistant cases of clinical depression.[7] A non-invasive VNS device that stimulates an afferent branch of the vagus nerve is also being developed and will soon undergo trials.[8]

Clinical trials are currently underway in Antwerp, Belgium using VNS for the treatment of tonal tinnitus after a breakthrough study published in early 2011 by researchers at the University of Texas - Dallas showed successful tinnitus suppression in rats when tones were paired with brief pulses of stimulation of the vagus nerve

Um...not sure what to think. I've heard of headphones that monitor brainwaves, but this is the first time I've seen headphones the stimulate nerves. I'd give it a go. Website is here; here's a testimonial video from CES.

Click here if you can't see the video.

OSSIC X Self-Calculates HRTF
160225_News_HeadphonesYouDidntExpect_Photo_OSSICX Still in Kickstarter form and having blown through a $100k ask with $500k in pledges, the OSSIC X is primarily intended for gaming use. Each earpiece has four drivers, ostensibly intended to create more natural sound propagation to the ears—something I've heard before with very limited success.

The unusual part, to me, is that there are some sensors in the earpieces that provide data to the unit to modify HRTF information prior to DSP accommodation algorithms. Also included is head tracking which also modifies HRTF algorithms. They don't provide much detail on exactly what's going on here, but from my reading of their info it seems that the headphones are measuring head width to provide ITD (inter-aural time difference) information to modify HRTFs. Here's a video from their CTO.

logscool's picture

Some very cool ideas and I can't wait until some of these head tracking features and such become the norm for many types of headphones. The future is gonna be great!

cspirou's picture

I am sure the Nervana would actually appeal to a lot of audiophiles. Not because they sound particularly good but because of the reduction of tinnitus which I am sure a good percentage of audiophiles have. Spending all that money on hifi equipment when you have hearing problems is like spending money on a $10k camera when you have cataracts.

Phoniac's picture

I take any bet that this is just rubber nonsense and Tinitus is not affected at all. Fully logical. Because if that would work no clinical study is necessary, the information would be public, and you could buy a cheap device helping you already at the next corner around your home.

This is in line with Apple's latest most-stupid-ever advertising crap, that the 1300$ fashion Beats phones make you hear the things that MP3 removed...

derbigpr500's picture

"Because if that would work no clinical study is necessary, the information would be public, and you could buy a cheap device helping you already at the next corner around your home." - This has to be one of the most ridiculous statements I've read lately, and trust me, the competition is very strong.

As a medical doctor, who knows quite a bit about this, it makes sense and it could very well work, and as clinical studies show, it does in many cases. Similar methods were used in the past successfully. I'd be careful if I were you, it's not wise to bet on things you clearly know nothing about.

ednaz's picture

Have seen what this looks like a few times - have heard it called "practice dying" and that's pretty much what it looks like. Eyes glaze over and roll back, lips and skin go bluish, and the person collapses. If they're lucky, they hit with their head down, blood flow resumes, and everything's OK (except sometimes for their head.) If their head is above their heart when they come to rest, they can seize or worse. Have seen that once. That's one nerve pathway I would not mess with.

derbigpr500's picture

Do you have ANY idea what causes the vasovagal syncope? Clearly not.

ednaz's picture

Two of the cases were very elderly, and multiple causes - postural tachycardia (both had heart rhythm problems), electrolyte imbalance, stress of being elderly and disabled causing severe distress episodes, and really, who knows what else. Picked them up off our floors several times (the first few times the EMTs did, and once we learned what was going on, we stopped the caregiver from calling EMTs). With someone age 85 you don't spend time chasing symptoms that aren't fatal. One was a younger person, though, and causes were related to her monthly cycle, probably pain related. If you read up a bit there are syndromes relating to urination (strong nervous pathway from abdomen to the nerve), various sorts of stresses, and the ever happy sounding random unexplainable episodes. Given the enormous number of ways you can experience vasovagal syncope, it's not a nerve you'd want to mess with. Ask Spock.