Panasonic went big at CES, announcing a gigantic 20-inch 4K Windows 8 tablet and what it claims is the world\’s largest 4K OLED ultra-high definition television, but the smallest gadget it unveiled, a set of bone conduction headphones, will likely be the item most consumers adopt.
Bone-conducting audio technology is not new, but there are few mainstream bone-conducting products. The technology that differs Panasonic\’s wireless bone conduction headphones, currently going by the model number RP-BTGS10, from others is that bone-conducting headphones don\’t actually output audible sound, as the audio is transmitted through vibrations.
Take a look at the Panasonic bone conduction headphones. While they look ordinary, the ear buds don\’t go in the user\’s ears. They press just in front, just under the temple, where they send vibrations directly into the ear canal. The advantage bone conduction offers is clear. By keeping the ear canal unobstructed, the user can still hear what is going on around them, making the Panasonic headphones perfect for outdoor runners and cyclers.
The Panasonic prototypes at CES were powered by a AAA battery, though that might be scrapped for an embedded rechargeable battery by the time the headphones actually ship. They pair via Bluetooth, and look no different than the dozens of other wrap-around headphones at CES, sans the bone conduction tech.
The demo prototypes at CES were operational, and TechnologyGuide was able to secure a few minutes of an iPod playlist. CES is a loud show, with obnoxious techno music basting from seemingly every booth, so it\’s unfair to judge the audio quality of the Panasonic bone conduction Bluetooth headphones, but it\’s very fair to say the technology definitely works. The volume levels were very low however, and a Panasonic rep requested we block our ears from all the ambient sounds for the full effect. Unblocked, and it was near impossible to discern any audible details from the Panasonic headphones. The rep also claimed the final product will offer much higher volume when it ships this fall.
Out of curiosity, and with no regard for hygiene, I did press the ear buds into my ears, and true to the tech, was not able to hear anything, though I could feel a faint hint of the bass beat.
There is no official word from Panasonic on pricing, though reps did mention a $150 to $200 price range.