Engineers, at BAE Systems, are developing an incredibly innovative communication device, based on bone conduction technology, that could enhance soldiers’ hearing while on the battlefield. By transmitting sound waves through the user’s cranial bones, and directly to the cochlea, the helmet-based system could help maximize the soldier’s awareness of his/her surroundings, while also providing protection against very loud noises, like that of gunfire.
Used in commercially-available bone conducting headphones and hearing aids, the technology involves the transmission of sound waves, changed into vibrations, through the bones of the skull. Instead of traveling through the eardrum, the audio messages get delivered directly to the inner ear or cochlea, which is responsible for converting sound into nerve impulses that can later be interpreted by the brain.
The researchers are looking for ways to integrate this technology with the standard combat helmet, for use by armed forces. Similar to a five pence coin in size, the system could be easily placed inside a helmet, just above the user’s ears. This eliminates the need to carry bulky transducers, without compromising the soldier’s safety on the battlefield. Speaking about the project, Mohammed Akhmad, a scientist at BAE Systems, said:
We recognize that on the battlefield, auditory situational awareness is essential for armed forces personnel. 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…. The key to this concept is that we have been able to utilize off-the-shelf technology and apply our specialist engineering expertise to greatly reduce the time it takes to develop a new prototype. In doing so, we have developed an audio system that offers enhanced capabilities for the military domain.
According to BAE officials, a prototype of the helmet-based bone conduction system would likely be on display at the upcoming Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London.
Source: BAE Systems