Picking Up Good Vibrations: The Rise of Bone Conduction Technology

Tom Hansford, Content Specialist

March 25, 2020

If you have your ear to the ground of modern technology, you may have heard of bone conduction headphones. The gadgets are gaining popularity in Japan and look set to take the world by storm.

Even though the technology is fairly new, bone conduction has been around for centuries. In fact, it’s first credited to Ludwig van Beethoven, the 18th century composer. Beethoven was completely deaf, so he engineered a special rod which connected his piano to his jawbone. When he clamped down on the device, he was able to hear the sound of his celestial symphonies. Or so the story goes.

Traditional headphones create sound vibrations by pushing air, whereas bone conduction headphones send vibrations directly to your inner ear bone, bypassing the eardrum. With a global rise in hearing disorders, the demand for bone conduction headphones has increased rapidly in recent years.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have perfect hearing, there are still lots of reasons to try bone conduction headphones. Wearers enjoy greater awareness of their surroundings, making outside activities like cycling and running far safer. They also provide a unique listening experience which many people prefer. But the most compelling reason to choose bone conduction headphones is simple: they give your precious eardrums a well-deserved break.

Nightclubs, bars, alarms, sirens - our modern world is loud. A daily blasting via bass-laden headphones is the last thing your eardrums need. In fact, the World Health Organization has warned that 1.1 billion people are at risk of hearing loss*, making bone conduction more important than ever before. However, the technology has tended to be big and cumbersome, preventing it from gaining popularity – until now.

BoCo, a Japanese startup, has developed bone conduction headphones small enough to be worn like earbuds. BoCo’s earsopen headphones clip to the earlobes, making them stylish and discreet, whilst keeping the ear canals free to hear outside sounds. BoCo CEO, Hataaki Sha, states:

“We are hoping to enrich the quality of life not only for those people with auditory disorder now, but also those people at risk of hearing loss around the globe by delivering sound that does not require the tympanic membrane (eardrum).”

The earsopen product gained worldwide attention after featuring on popular crowdfunding site, Culture Convenience Club. Today, the headphones are stocked in around 1000 stores in Japan, becoming an instant hit with consumers. But Mr Sha believes this is just the beginning, and is planning for rapid growth all over the world:

"We aim to increase sales by five times in the next fiscal year and increase the overseas ratio to 70%.”

BoCo aren’t stopping at headphones. The company’s docodemoSPEAKER is a small Bluetooth device that uses bone conduction technology to amplify sound, turning almost any physical object into a speaker. You can place the palm-sized speaker onto a kitchen worktop, office desk or chest of drawers and it will pump out the music of your choice, vibrating the object rather than the air.

Conduction Technology Devices

According to the developer, the sleek, modern speaker works particularly well when listening to acoustic bass notes. BoCo has also developed an accompanying bath capsule, which makes the docodemoSPEAKER completely waterproof. This means you can drop it into a full bathtub and literally immerse yourself in the music.

Having established itself in the Japanese market, Mr Sha is taking BoCo global. So, when choosing a business management platform, he was drawn to the flexibility of the cloud:

“It was impossible to build and operate a mission critical information system in the cloud 10 years ago. Many companies spent a huge amount of time and money introducing on-premise ERP to make management visible, but it quickly becomes rigid.”

BoCo partnered with NetSuite because it wanted to integrate all its core processes into a single cloud platform that can scale as the business expands into new markets, with Mr Sha adding:

“Cloud ERP is an indispensable trick to strengthen competitiveness.”

Now NetSuite is implemented, BoCo is all set for world domination. And remember, you heard it here first.

*https://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/ear-care/en/(opens in new tab)

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