The end of L and R markings is near, as new earbuds know in which ear they’re inserted

Universal Earphones ProximityThe one thing we all do before putting on a pair of headphones is check we’re putting the correct ‘bud in the correct ear, either with the little L and R markings, or by using another visual clue such as an in-line microphone to check which is which, thus ensuring the stereo separation is heard as the artist and audio mixer intended.

It’s a tried-and-tested but decidedly low-tech solution, however a Japanese team of researchers at the Igarashi Design Interface Project have come up with an far more high-tech alternative.

They call them Universal Earphones, and there’s a proximity sensor fixed to each earbud that knows which ear it has been inserted in, then adjusts the channel accordingly. With a 30mm detection zone in which to find either your ear or clear air, they work in a similar way to your phone’s proximity sensor.

That’s not all either, as another sensor is used to see whether both earbuds are being used by the same person, and if not, both the ‘buds get a mono signal. Why? So you don’t get just one side of a stereo track when you’re sharing a pair of earphones with another person.

Future plans for the Universal Earphones include a feature where the ‘buds know they’ve been removed from your ears, and pausing the music until they’re re-inserted, or even playing one track through the right earphone and another through the left.

At this stage, the Universal Earphones are in still in development and according to the BBC, there are no firm plans to mass produce them. However, the promo video reveals they would cost less than $1 per pair to manufacture, which could see them being snapped up in the future.

Of course, if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t check to make sure your headphones are in the correct ear, this won’t be of any interest. Just a quick question though, how can you be so blasé?


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