Monday, May 01, 2006

Smart Headphones

I think it's neat that my powerbook recognizes when the headphones are plugged in. I don't really do anything with this information, but still, it's kinda cool. Opens up new areas of feedback that you might not have traditionally thought about.

This weekend I switched from earbuds over to a fuller pair of headphones, complete with that cushiony bit that attempts to cancel out the surrounding noise. My earbuds keep breaking, probably because i let them dangle and end up running over them with my chair.

I have an idea I'd love to see implemented. When I take off my headphones, I want iTunes to pause itself. Makes perfect sense to me. If there's headphones connected, then chances are that any music playing is going through those headphones. Thus, if I take them off, you can assume that I'm not listening anymore. While it might be allowable to let the sound continue -- for instance, if you're just listening to generic background music -- it's much more obvious to assume that you should stop the music. I've certainly been in situations where a coworker leaves his music playing through headphones, but it is so loud that it can be heard (in that tinny, scratchy way) over the cube wall.

So, how would you do it? I figure there are two problems to solve -- how to figure out when the headphones are on/off, and how to transmit that information to the computer. The second is probably the harder, especially if you're talking about just a generic RCA line-out plug. This would probably only work over Bluetooth or something. For the former, detecting when they are on/off, maybe there could be a switch in the springy portion of the band that keeps the headphones together, so it can tell when it is at rest, and when it is clamped down over somebody's head? A friend suggests maybe attempting to measure the heat coming off the listener's body, but I'm wondering how dynamically that would change when you take them off.

If somebody could make such a thing, I'd be happy with a button on the headphones that I could press as I'm taking them off. Grabbing the mouse, switching to iTunes and pressing Pause is just too many steps.

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