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Google Glass Wants to Rock Your Bones

by Adriana Lee | February 4, 2013February 4, 2013 1:30 pm PDT

One of the best things about headphones and in-ear earbuds is the fantastic ability they have to block out the world around you. That’s also one of their most dangerous aspects. When you’re wearing that type of ear gear, you may not be able to hear a horn honking or people hollering that a car is rushing toward you.

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Well, Google Glass may have the answer to this dilemma — bone conduction. Last December, it was tipped that Google intended to use the technology for discrete notifications that only the user can hear. Last month, the company filed a patent for bone conduction, and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has put its stamp of approval on it this past week. The documents described it as “integral vibrating element that provides audio to the user via contact with the user’s head.” That’s a pretty spot-on description of how the technology works. Bone conduction uses your own physiology to conduct sound, turning your skull into integral hardware for an isolated personal audio system. (And you can’t accidentally leave it at home. Bonus.) Because the system doesn’t rely on buds that are sit on or inside those ear holes, there’s no blocking of ambient noise.

It can also work in two directions: Jawbone has been using bone conduction microphones in their headsets for years, and Panasonic showed off a prototype headphone at CES (below). Although it’s not exactly a new technology, it hasn’t really caught on with the mainstream yet. However, with the renewed attention this is getting — thanks to projects like Glass and Panasonic — we could be looking at the beginning a new mobile audio trend.

Panasonic’s prototype headphones from CES, courtesy of The Verge

Google Glass has been getting more and more attention, partly fueled by surprise appearances of the device out in public, non-techie locales. It has been spotted on celebrities; Sergey Brin casually took them out for a spin on a New York City subway; and they’ve even caused a stir in a San Francisco bar recently.

Are you excited by Google Glass? What do you think of it using bone conduction technology? If you’ve ever used a bone conductive accessory, tell us about your experience in the comments.

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...