Finding the right headphones is a music-lover’s never-ending conundrum. Traditional headphones are clunky, while wired earbuds can’t seem to stay untangled.
Los Angeles-based startup, Zungle, wants to replace headphones entirely with a pair of sunglasses that sends sound directly through your skull.
The Zungle Panther sunglasses contain bone-conduction speakers where the frames hit the temples. Instead of then transmitting sound waves outside the ears, they send sound waves as vibrations through the skull. The wearer hears crystal clear sound (which the company claims is comparable to normal headphones), while the outside world hears almost nothing.
The user pairs the device to their smartphone via Bluetooth, and opens their preferred music app on their phone. A dial over the right ear can be tapped to start listening to a playlist or an album, and spun to fast-forward and rewind songs.
A built-in, noise-cancelling microphone also allows wearers to make and answer calls without picking up the phone, though it’s unclear how the quality is for the person on the other line.
The advantages of the Zungle Panter — beyond its coolness factor — are numerous. You can listen to tunes as loud as you’d like on the train without disturbing your neighbour, and spend a fraction of the cost of traditional noise-cancelling headphones. Plus, you can still hear approaching cars and conversations.
The battery leaves something to be desired. It last just four hours of playback and charges through a USB port hidden in the sunglasses.
By now you might be wondering, is it safe? The company makes no claims on its Kickstarter page, though the technology closely resembles that of bone-conduction implants.
These devices, worn by people who are hard of hearing, capture sound in the air, process the sound into vibrations, and transmit the vibrations through bone to the inner ear. More than 100,000 patients globally have been fitted with bone-conduction implants since the late ’70s, according to leading device-maker Cochlear.
The Zungle Panther sunglasses are currently available for pre-order on Kickstarter, and retail for $150.