Nela & Boris at Lighthouse Point complex - Collingwood, Ontario (August 2nd, 2008)

Back in the early heyday of the iPod, its distinctive white in-ear headphones were blamed for a sharp rise in street robbery in London because they identified the wearer as having a fancy music player valuable enough to be worth stealing. If the newest product released by Shanghai-based company King Jim takes off, though, the next zombie-like commuter you see wearing headphones might not be able to listen to any music at all thanks to Digital Earplugs (Dijitaru Mimisen in Japanese). The new device looks just like regular white headphones, but they’re not for playing your favourite tunes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Digital Earplugs use noise-cancelling technology to cut out only unwanted noise, allowing you to work, study or sleep in peace almost anywhere! However, for 5,229 yen (US$51), we expected headphones that also actually do the thing that headphones are supposed to do: let you play audio.


Here’s how they work: Noise cancelling technology “listens” to background noise, inverts it and plays back the two sounds simultaneously, cancelling out the unwanted noise.

▼ Here’s a look at life before digital earplugs, according to King Jim:


▼ And after:


Amazingly, although Digital Earplugs can mask up to 90 percent of background noise, King Jim says the wearer will still clearly hear the sound of ringtones or their own name being called. We’re not sure exactly how the headphones distinguish between the irksome background chatter of people you don’t know and the welcome sound of a friend calling your name, but that seems pretty impressive!

Of course, the ability to pretend you’re listening to music has other advantages too. Think of all the conversations you can listen in on while everyone thinks you can’t hear them! Admittedly though, we could always just use regular headphones (with the music turned off) for that.

Source: NetLab
Images: Wikimedia Commons, KING JIM