The year 2012 has been turning out to be a great one for inventions what with the invisible keyboards, two way USB ports, or proposed elevators to space.  Could this streak be continuing with the release of Bone Transmission Headphones by Evergreen.

As someone who wears headphones constantly this premise made me perk up.  Apparently using our ears to hear music will be a thing of the past as we can now fast track it straight to our brains through our skulls.

This frees up the ears for folks like me who can’t hear the sounds of oncoming vehicles or people yelling at us when walking around.  Rather than sitting in your ears, the buds press up against your head just above your jaw.  From here they feed your brain music around your ears instead of through them.

The first concern that comes to mind, though, is how they sound.  According to the company “they give you a sense of hearing live music that you can’t get listening through headphones.”  Okay, I can get behind that, but still, that line sounds kind of like they’re putting a positive spin on some crappy sound.

First, to get a sense of how Bone Transmission Works we need to figure out how our ears function.  Basically, sounds are vibrations that travel through the air. When these vibrations enter our ears they first hit our eardrums which are the delicate membranes that your mother always warns you about when using Q-Tips.

The eardrums then transmit the vibrations to tiny bones called ossicles.  From there the vibrations go to you main hearing organ the cochlea, which looks like a snail shell.  It has little hairs that are connected to nerves which send impulses to your brain.

For example, when you press play on a Paris Hilton CD, her voice hits your eardrum then goes to your ossicles to your cochlea hairs to your nerves reaching your brain which identifies it as garbage.  What Bone Transmission Headphones do is bypass your eardrum and ossicles and send the vibes through your skull right to the cochlea.  In doing this your eardrums are untouched allowing them to receive other sounds as if you didn’t have headphones on.

This all sounds pretty good, but it’s really hard to imagine what it would be like to actually use these things.  A trial run was written about by Jajuka Teranishi on Excite News Japan which described what it’s like to use take a walk using Bone Transmission.

According to the article they do let you hear both the music and any ambient noises effectively.  You could hear cars and birds and the music at the same time.  Evergreen’s claims of concert like sound were apparently on the money since you could feel the music’s vibrations in your body like at a real concert.

However, the headphones are not without their weaknesses.  Mr. Teranishi reported some frustration with the fact that music was competing with the sounds of the city.  Although dangerous, one of the benefits of traditional headphones is that you can totally immerse yourself in the music and appreciate it at its fullest.

Another problem is that the sound leaks, big time.  Even Evergreen doesn’t recommend these headphones for use in close quarters with others like on trains.  Unless you want to get a bunch of dirty looks you’re best to use these only while jogging or doing other things outside.

The sound quality is reported to be decent, and for a price of 2,999 yen (US$36) it’s a pretty reasonable way to keep safe and still enjoy a tune in your head.  However for the hardcore audiophiles who want to appreciate every nuance of a Frank Zappa album, I recommend you move on.

But who knows? This technology is still in its infancy and may develop into more sophisticated earless, or dare I say headless headphones in the near future.

Source: SHANGHAI DONYA(Japanese) via Excite News (Japanese)