No matter how much money the United States spends on its armed forces each year, there’s always room for improving the gear that American soldiers have access to in the field. While the U.S. military no doubt utilizes and deploys a bevy of futuristic tech most people have never heard of, a recent press release from the British defense and security firm BAE Systems shows it intends to take a page out of the audio world’s book for its latest military upgrade. No, we aren’t talking about soldiers rocking Beats headphones around their neck while deployed, rather BAE is currently developing an Army helmet which utilizes bone conduction communication technology for use on the battlefield.
For those unaware of what bone conduction technology actually is, it’s essentially a clever method of audio transmission which conducts sound to the inner ear via the bones in a person’s skull. This technology was developed back in the 70’s, and has been used in hearing aid implants for quite some time — though lately, headphone manufacturers have begun using the tech in headsets for an improved auditory experience.
Thing is, you don’t need special tech to experience bone conduction — you actually experience it every day. Ever noticed how your voice always sounds wildly different to yourself than when you hear a recording of it? Well, this is due to the fact your skull conducts lower frequencies more efficiently than air. In other words, this is bone conduction in action.
Concerning BAE’s project, the firm intends to use a similar kind of technology native to ordinary bone conducting headphones which transmit sound directly to the inner ear. By taking advantage of this communication system, soldiers will have the ability to more easily receive direct audio transmissions even while on a noisy battlefield. So far, BAE’s research has allowed it to develop an incredibly small helmet attachment — it claims it’s no bigger than a five pence coin — by making use of “off-the-shelf technology,” which dramatically reduceds the costs and time associated with such an endeavor.
“We recognize that on the battlefield, auditory situational awareness is essential for armed forces personnel,” explains Mohammed Akhmad, BAE Systems’ Principal Scientist. “With this system, the soldiers can safeguard their hearing with ear protectors whilst still clearly receiving military voice communications, to enable them to perform their roles efficiently and safely.”
BAE’s press release goes on to state that in the future, it plans on completely integrating bone conduction technology directly into future helmets. For now, the company remains focused on developing its compact addition to existing helmets and intends to show off its work at the Defense and Security Equipment International exhibition taking place September 15 through 18 in London.
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