The US Army’s new earbuds give soldiers tunable hearing, protection from loud noises

For the past several years, the Army has been developing and deploying a cutting-edge headset called TCAPS, Tactical Communication, and Protective System, designed to protect the hearing of its soldiers. The high-tech hearing protection system can deaden loud noises while also improving ambient sounds that are necessary for situational awareness.

The Army developed the headset following a Department of Veterans Affairs report that pinpointed tinnitus and hearing loss as the most common service-related disabilities among veterans. Soldiers typically are issued foam earplugs to protect their hearing, but few wear the ear protection because it blocks all noise, making it difficult to hear commands and listen for both friendly and enemy troop movement. As a result of not wearing ear plugs, many soldiers suffer from varying degrees of hearing loss both during and after their service terms. According to the report, more than $1.1 billion was paid out for hearing-related injuries in 2009, and this number is expected to continue to rise.

On the outside, the $2,000 headset looks like your typical earbud with customizable foam inserts for different ear canals and a loop to hold it securely to the ear. On the inside is sophisticated technology that can detect high decibel noises and lower their intensity so they are received within normal ranges. On the other side of the spectrum, the headset also can pick up soft background sounds and amplify them.

Besides noise cancellation and augmentation, the TCAPS unit also has some convenience features. It can be charged using traditional AC outlets, vehicle batteries and even solar power. It also can connect to smartphones, radios, and other communication gear. Audio communications company Invisio produces the headset for the military and is no stranger to the technology. The company currently holds several patents covering audio and headset technology and supplies similar communication systems to law enforcement agencies.

When the TCAPS were first introduced in 2014, several thousand units were deployed to soldiers in military bases throughout the U.S., including Fort Bliss, Texas; Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Fort Drum, New York. The headset was well received by the soldiers who praised it for its comfort and hearing protection.

“This device is ten times better than the basic foam ear pro [protection] and head-set we had! I can connect this to my tactical radio, communicate with my soldiers on ground and higher up, while still protecting my hearing” said Staff Sgt. Nathaniel D. Burton, Company Alpha, 1st Battalion, 87 Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, New York in a prepared release on the Army’s website. They army has issued more than 20,000 units since they were first released two years ago.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best Amazon Original series, from 'Bosch' to 'Transparent'

Amazon Studios may not have as big a collection of in-house productions as Netflix, but there are still lots of shows worthy of your eyeballs. Here are our picks for the best Amazon original series.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Emerging Tech

‘Bionic mushroom’ can generate electricity without using fossil fuels

Researchers have come up with a way to produce electricity without fossil fuels using mushrooms covered with bacteria. The mushroom provides a safe environment for special cyanobacteria that generate electricity when light is shone on them.
Emerging Tech

Curiosity rover active and drilling again after computer issue

The Curiosity rover has succeeded in drilling a hole into the tough bedrock that previously defeated it, allowing imaging and collection of samples. The rover had been incapacitated for a few weeks due to problems with its computer.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."