Three Headphones You Probably Didn't Expect
Harman Audio Augmented Reality
Still in it's initial stages of release (evidently there will be an Indigogo campaign), this new type of noise canceling headphone selectively cancels or amplifies outside sound permitting you to both isolate yourself from outside noise and let you hear the thing you need to be aware of. Pretty cool, I'll certainly try to get my hands on a pair when the time comes. Website here.
Click here if you don't see the video.
Nervana Vagus Nerve Stimulating Headphone
This upcoming device works like a pair of IEMs but includes and addition small electronic unit to convert audio into a stimulation signal that is applied through the left earpiece. This signal is intended to stimulate the vagus nerve that travels near the ear, and according to Wikipedia:
The vagus nerve supplies motor parasympathetic fibers to all the organs except the suprarenal (adrenal) glands, from the neck down to the second segment of the transverse colon.
This means that the vagus nerve is responsible for such varied tasks as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth, including speech (via the recurrent laryngeal nerve). It also has some afferent fibers that innervate the inner (canal) portion of the outer ear (via the auricular branch, also known as Alderman's nerve) and part of the meninges. This explains why a person may cough when tickled on the ear, such as when trying to remove ear wax with a cotton swab.
[later in the article regarding vagus nerve stimulation] Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy using a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest is a treatment used since 1997 to control seizures in epilepsy patients and has recently[dated info] been approved for treating drug-resistant cases of clinical depression. A non-invasive VNS device that stimulates an afferent branch of the vagus nerve is also being developed and will soon undergo trials.
Clinical trials are currently underway in Antwerp, Belgium using VNS for the treatment of tonal tinnitus after a breakthrough study published in early 2011 by researchers at the University of Texas - Dallas showed successful tinnitus suppression in rats when tones were paired with brief pulses of stimulation of the vagus nerve
Um...not sure what to think. I've heard of headphones that monitor brainwaves, but this is the first time I've seen headphones the stimulate nerves. I'd give it a go. Website is here; here's a testimonial video from CES.
Click here if you can't see the video.
OSSIC X Self-Calculates HRTF
Still in Kickstarter form and having blown through a $100k ask with $500k in pledges, the OSSIC X is primarily intended for gaming use. Each earpiece has four drivers, ostensibly intended to create more natural sound propagation to the earssomething I've heard before with very limited success.
The unusual part, to me, is that there are some sensors in the earpieces that provide data to the unit to modify HRTF information prior to DSP accommodation algorithms. Also included is head tracking which also modifies HRTF algorithms. They don't provide much detail on exactly what's going on here, but from my reading of their info it seems that the headphones are measuring head width to provide ITD (inter-aural time difference) information to modify HRTFs. Here's a video from their CTO.