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Brief Published: 27 Apr 2016

IQbuds: Selective Hearing


Australia's Curtin University and Perth/San Francisco-based audio wearables company Nuheara have created wireless, bluetooth-enabled earbuds that allow users to choose which sounds pass through them.

The hearing device, called IQbuds, uses advanced signal processing capabilities to block out unwanted background noise, while still allowing useful sound to enter the ears. For example, the transparency feature may be used to cut out distracting babble in an office during a phonecall. Developed with safety in mind, the touch-controlled IQbuds can also tune out the noise of passing traffic, but would allow the sound of pedestrian-crossing alerts to ensure safe road crossing.

"The ultimate aim is to embed IQbuds into a device that incorporates the technology into a virtual reality experience. This means when you move your head, audio of the wearer's desire is streamed directly into the 3D virtual world," said Kevin Fynn, head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computing at Curtin University. Another future application of the technology is within hearing aids for those in the early stages of hearing loss, according to project team leader Sven Nordholm.

The launch of the product will mark the first time consumers can purchase a smartphone-connectable device with sophisticated sound augmentation capabilities directly off the shelf. The IQbuds have a four-hour battery life and charging case, and are available now for a presale price of $199.

For more information on wearables and the emerging hearables market, see Wearable Technology Show 2016 and CES 2016: Personal Electronics.