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'Invisible headphones' could cut number of iPod muggings

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'Invisible headphones' could cut number of iPod muggings

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'Invisible headphones' could cut number of iPod muggings

The soaring rate of muggings for portable music players could be slashed by a young inventor who has created an invisible headphone system.

The tiny wireless speaker sits under a hat or headband and does not use 'buds' - the small ear phones that are an obvious give-away that a person is carrying an MP3 player.

Inventor Reece Myers, a 22-year-old who graduated from Brunel University in industrial design in June, began working on the device after witnessing a man being mugged at knifepoint for his MP3 player.

Police have repeatedly issued warnings to music-lovers to ditch their headphones or risk being robbed of their MP3s. IPod users wearing the distinctive white 'buds' have proved particularly popular targets.

Mr Myers' 'Discreet Sound System' consists of a single inch-long thin pad that uses bone conduction to transmit sound directly to the inner ear - technology similar to that used in hearing aids.

The system operates wirelessly using a Bluetooth connection between the pad and the headphone output socket on the MP3 player.

As well as being invisible, the wearer can hear external noise like approaching traffic because there are no earphones to block the eardrum.

Little microphones in the device constantly monitor external noise and adjust the volume to suit, lowering the music when the user is in a quiet area like a carriage or increasing it in noisy locations like train stations.

Mr Myers said his invention produces sound quality that is similar, if not better, than a pair of traditional headphones.

He believes the gadget would all but eliminate muggings for MP3s, and is hoping to find a manufacturer to produce it.

He said: "The idea came to me after seeing a guy at a train station being held at knife point for his MP3 player. The headphones stand out so much, it's no wonder people get mugged.

"I realised that users of MP3 players would be a lot safer if they could listen to their music without anyone else knowing about it."

Paul Turnock, design director at Brunel University, said: "Reece has designed a system which not only makes those carrying and using media players safer, but also improves the social environment for those around them.

"Given the numbers of people using MP3 players today, Reece's design has the potential to be a hit."

Copyright Press Association 2006.

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