BAE Systems adapts bone conduction technology to aid soldiers on the battlefield.
Soldiers use radios to speak to each other and to understand their surroundings, but they also need to protect themselves from loud noises, such as gunfire and explosions. To enable troops to wear sound proof ear protectors and still receive audio messages, BAE Systems has developed a new radio which uses bone conduction technology.
The prototype harnesses the body’s natural ability to transmit sound through bones, transferring messages directly from the soldier’s armoured helmet to the inner ear.
How does it work?
The human body is able to transmit sound through bones, as well as via sound waves travelling through the ear canal.
Bone conduction bypasses the ear drum and converts sound waves into vibrations that are sent through the bones of the skull directly to the cochlea, the snail-shaped sense organ buried behind the ear which translates sound into nerve impulses for the brain.
Then and now
Bone conduction techniques date back centuries, as early as 1550, when Italian mathematicians demonstrated it was possible to transmit sound through a rod held between the teeth.
This knowledge was later used in 1711 for the British-designed tuning fork. German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, then found a way in 1798 to hear music by attaching a rod to his piano and clenching it in his teeth.
By 1876, the first commercial hearing aids were being developed in Italy.
Now, BAE Systems’ scientists have managed to improve the performance of bone conduction devices while also shrinking their size and weight to that of a five pence coin.
BAE Systems’ principal scientist Mohammed Akhmad said: ‘With this system, 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.’
Mr Akhmad added that the key to the concept was that BAE Systems had been able to use off-the-shelf technology and apply specialised scientific expertise to 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.’
The British Army is keen to make use of more wearable technology.
A demonstration will be on display at the Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition in London later this month.
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