Space & Innovation

Custom Earphones Double as Brainwave Monitors

Bluetooth device will combine multiple functions into 3D-printed casing designed to fit your particular skull.

When the iPhone first came to market, in 2007, it was hyped as the ultimate all-in-one device -- phone, camera, music player and handheld game platform. Younger readers may not be aware of this but, back in the day, we bought and carried all those devices separately. Hence the unfortunate fashion resurgence of cargo pants.

A new earphone device currently in development could be another all-in-one milestone for the digital age. The Aware, currently in high-gear Kickstarter mode, combines a wireless Bluetooth earbud system with the biometric tracking features of fitness bands and other wearables - all in a custom-fitted, 3D-printed "hearable" device.

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But the big breakthrough with the Aware device, according to designers, is that it can measure EEG data and brainwaves with dermal sensors both inside and outside of the ear canal. This is the stuff lab technicians otherwise track with several dozen electrodes taped to your skull.

Apps on your Bluetooth-connected smartphone then provide feedback on stress levels, sleep patterns and relaxation. You can watch real-time EEG waves as the Aware tracks your brainwaves throughout the day. The device can also monitor snoring and teeth grinding if you keep the things in at night.

On the activity tracking front, the Aware has a pulse monitor and accelerometers for tracking steps, heart rates, distance traveled and calories burned. There's a pulse oxygen sensor in there, too.

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Finally, the Aware functions as a 24/7 headphone setup for piping in phone calls, music, podcasts or what-have-you from your connected smart phone. Or you can keep your audio collection onboard with the 16 GB of internal storage. Noise canceling algorithms work on the fly to adjust incoming audio with ambient sounds in your immediate vicinity.

All that tech is packed into a custom 3D-printed casing, created from laser scans of your particular skull and ear canal anatomy. How will this be determined? Well, the company behind the project, United Sciences, plans to tour a mobile scanning facility to more than 100 cities in 24 countries. Click around the product page for more information and what appears to be several thousand demo videos.

Odds are you own a wearable computers. This past year has seen explosive growth for such devices, including fitness trackers, phone watches and motion trackers. Shipments for various devices are poised to reach 76.1 million units by the end of 2015, up 163.6 percent from 2014, according to IT research firm IDC. By 2019, worldwide shipments are expected to reach 173.4 million units. It's safe to say the industry is booming. Here’s a look at some of the most popular and intriguing wearables that hit the market this year. These wearables run the gamut in functionality, from tracking heart rate and activity to zapping your brain to improve your mood and sending off an alarm to help prevent sexual assault.

The Apple Watch

The Apple Watch, which debuted in April 2015, is a sleek wearable that resembles a mini iPhone for your wrist. It’s available in different models, including Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch Edition. It provides advanced health and activity tracking, including wrist-based heart rate monitoring, and can display updates or control music on your smartphone. Models start at $349.

The health-tracking Fitbit ranges in price from the $60 (for the ZIP) to the $250 (for the Surge). Known as the leader in wearable activity tracking, Fitbit sold 4.7 million devices between July and September this year, according to IDC. Real-time information about activity, exercise, food, sleep and more make this slim device attractive to those trying to improve their overall health.

This wearable zaps your brain to change your mood. The white curved Thync connects wirelessly to a smartphone via Bluetooth low-energy. After pairing it with your mobile device, Thync sends low-level pulses of electricity into your head activating pathways in your brain that make you feel calm or energized.

The second generation Motorola Moto 360 includes a heart-rate monitor, music player and GPS. Starting at $299, this Android watch can also be voice-controlled through the “OK Google” command in Google Search.

With motion-sensing technology and coaching guidance, Moov Now ($79.99), available for both Android and iOS, brings workouts to the next level. The wearable aims to improve almost all forms of exercise with instructions and real-time data, from running to cardio boxing and swimming.

Athena, developed by Philadelphia-based startup Roar for Good, is a coin-size personal safety alarm to help prevent sexual assault. The wearable, which can be worn as a necklace or used an accessory that’s clipped to a shirt pocket, belt or purse, sounds off an alarm and notifies contacts of the user’s location if it’s pressed for three seconds or longer.

A new pair of jeans called #Hellojean, created by Joe’s Jeans, are not only fashionable, but also double as a wearable device, with a dedicated pocked to charge a smartphone (as long as it’s smaller than the iPhone 6). The jeans cost $190 and the battery pack, sold separately, costs $49. The USB cord is hidden in the seams of the jeans so it can “invisibly” connect to the phone.

This wearable motorcycle helmet, with a $1,500 price tag, has a heads-up display, a 180-degree rearview camera and GPS navigation. There’s also a voice-control feature that connects to a phone and can control music.

This insole ($200) tracks your daily steps and calories burned and can also keep your feet warm. Called Digitsole, it provides an extra layer of padding to your sneakers to absorb shock and vibrations when you’re moving.

Like a Glove smart leggings fit all sizes and include sensors that take measurements -- including waist, thighs, hips and inseam -- at the press of a button. The measurements are then sent to an app that helps select the best jean brands that fit your dimensions. The leggings can be pre-ordered for $40.

This decorative activity tracker for women is an accessory that resembles a leaf and can be work on the wrist, collar or neck. In addition to tracking steps and sleep quality, it also tracks menstruation and ovulation and offers guided breathing exercises to reduce stress. The wearable starts at $119.