(With apologies to Chick Corea.)
In Japan, they’re wearing iPod shuffles in their headbands and preparing to go underwater. According to Electronista, the Japanese gadgetmaker Thanko has introduced a sports headband for MP3 players that uses bone conduction to play sound, making it suitable for waterproof listening applications (if you waterproof your iPod as well). It’s too soon to tell when this will hit our shores, but you can order them online directly from Thanko.
Bone conduction is a hearing aid technology that conducts “Good Vibrations” through the bones of your skull directly into your inner ear. Place a headset on your temple or cheek, and the electromechanical transducer, which converts electric signals into mechanical vibrations, sends sound to the internal ear through the cranial bones. Thanko had already released a conventional-looking pair of bone-conduction headphones, the Vonia EZ-4200Ps, which sits on your skull rather than on your ears — presumably so that you can listen to your iPod and hear everything else going on in the world, while also protecting your eardrums.
Scuba divers use waterproof bone conduction speakers — typically a waterproof rubber piezo-electric flexing disc attached to the temple. The sound can be surprisingly clear and crisp, though not in stereo, because the sound seems to come from inside your head. I withhold judgement until I get a chance to actually “hear” through them.
The Vonia headband offers a small pocket for holding the iPod shuffle. The wires are tucked inside the headband, and Thanko notes that Vonia owners can fit a waterproof guard on the bone conduction speakers to take the headband underwater. The compartment itself is not waterproof, so you need to waterproof your iPod shuffle. And yes, it is possible to waterproof an iPod shuffle — see the SwimMan’s waterproof iPod shuffle writeup in Engadget.