Innovative Headphones a Life Saver?
By Jim Bray
Can your life be saved by headphones? Can an inexpensive and simple gadget keep your garage secure?
To answer these burning questions I'm sure people have been asking since time immemorial, I turned my gadget-loving sights on a couple of interesting devices that do decidedly different jobs: the Audio Bone headphones and the Garage One garage door closer. One is an ear opening experience, while the other offers closure to angst-filled garage owners.
An Audio Bone to Pick…
One thing that bugs me when I'm driving around is the number of pedestrians – and even some other drivers – who are going about their business, plugged into a set of ear buds or other headphones, oblivious to the world around them and unable to hear the traffic of which they're a part.
While part of me approves of this Darwin Award-like behavior, another wishes there were some way to get these people unplugged without infringing on their right to listen to whatever type of programming they want whenever they want to listen to it.
And wouldn't you know, there is. It's called the Audio Bone, a re-imagining of the headphone that lets you play your favorite tunes or podcasts while leaving your ears wide open to the world around you.
The Audio Bones use bone conduction to transmit the sound directly into your skull, bypassing your ears entirely. You wear them in front of your ears, where they press into the sides of your head in a way that, if you care about such things, makes it look as if you can't find your, er, ears, with both hands. The band stretches around behind your head to keep the Audio Bones from falling off and the result is a set of "earlessphones" that's quite comfortable to wear. And since you aren't using your ears with the Audio Bones, you could even use them when you're wearing ear plugs – guaranteeing yourself some strange looks from those around you on the job site.
I didn't try them that way, not having any earplugs, but I can't see why it wouldn't work.
The bone conduction works pretty well, though the volume is quite a bit lower than you can get from regular headphones or ear buds – which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It feels a mite weird at first, too, and the manufacturer suggests you give your inner ear time to adjust. Apparently, many people notice that the volume and sound quality improve over time as they become more accustomed to listening via bone conduction. So says the company, anyway.
Bone conduction isn't a new idea. The manufacturer claims Beethoven used the technique when he wrote his later stuff, after he'd gone deaf. According to the company's website, "Beethoven found a way to hear music through his jawbone by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it in his teeth."
Now that's dedication to your craft!
They also claim that whales hear via bone conduction, which might explain why the Audio Bones worked for me as well.
At about $200, the Audio Bone headphones aren't cheap, but since you can still hear that taxi bearing down on you at breakneck speed, they could just save your life.
A gadget to a door….
I've also been looking at a nifty little device that can help protect your property – or even just give you some peace of mind, when it comes to your garage door. The Garage One garage door closer from Skylink, is a little gadget you can wire into your existing garage door opener, and it closes your door after a pre-determined time of up to 20 minutes.
Sounds like a plan! I don't know about you, but nearly every time I drive away from my garage I start getting paranoid about whether or not I've remembered to close the damn door – even if I've stuck around long enough to watch it. And naturally, when I double back to check, it's always closed.
I think it's a middle age thing.
But with the wireless Garage Door Closer system, you can just drive off and not worry about it – though if you're like me you'll probably get paranoid that the closer might not have done its job, and double back anyway…
The system includes a monitor that senses if the door is closed fully and, if it isn't, sends a signal to the "base unit" that activates its timer. And if you're in the garage and want the door open, for those days you're having a garage sale and don't want the door dropping down on the heads of potential customers, you can bypass it.
A beeper and flashing LED let you know the system's armed and ready.
The sensor mounts on your garage door via double sided tape or screws, is battery operated and interacts wirelessly with the base controller. You can select the time you would like the door to close from two, five, 10 and 20 minutes.
The Garage Door Closer system sells for $39.95 (U.S).
It probably won't set the world on fire, but it could provide a little peace of mind in this busy, troubled world, and that isn't a bad thing.
Copyright 2008 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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