DEC 16, 2019 11:00 AM PST

Headphones That Warn You of Danger

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

It’s a common seen—people wearing headphones or earbuds with their faces glued to their phones as the cross the street unaware of their surroundings. This dangerous scenario has been known as “twalking”. As a result of twalking, an increasing rate pedestrian deaths in the U.S. as hit its highest point since 1990. To counteract that, researchers at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University are developing “smart” headphones that will warn pedestrians of coming dangers.

Learn more about pedestrian safety:

“We are exploring a new area in developing an inexpensive and low-power technology that creates an audio-alert mechanism for pedestrians,” says Fred Jiang, a Data Science Institute member and an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering.

These headphones were created with complexity involving multiple embedded miniature microphones and intelligent low-power signal processor that can detect sounds of incoming vehicles. If danger appears, the headphones will send an audio alert. Researchers are now using prototypes of the intelligent wearable system that could help “decrease pedestrian injuries and fatalities”. Furthermore, the headphones are currently being tested in New York—a city prized for its traffic and pedestrians.

Findings were published in the journal, IEEE Internet of Things.

“We hope that once refined,” he says, “the technology will be commercialized and mass produced in a way that will help cities reduce pedestrian fatalities.”

Source: Data Science Institute Colombia

About the Author
  • Nouran earned her BS and MS in Biology at IUPUI and currently shares her love of science by teaching. She enjoys writing on various topics as well including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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