earWorm: Socially Responsible AR

A bluetooth headset designed to maintain your connectivity and humanity when interacting with those around you.

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What is it?
earWorm is a bone-conducting bluetooth headset designed to be worn out of sight in order to avoid the disconnect that can occur when a phone or other device enters the space of a conversation. Since the sound is entering the wearers ears via the

So why is it an AR device?
It contains a voice-recording sound effects player that plays pre-recorded voice control messages to your phone of choice, and a microcontroller on board to analyse incoming audio for call-and-response messages. This enables a chain-like event system triggered by macro buttons on the outside of the unit

I'm picking this project back up! News Soon!

  • 1 × Teensy 3.1 The much beloved, insanely fast Arduino-compatible board from
  • 1 × Teensy Audio Breakout Board Containing a mic-pre, uSD Slot, and 16bit 44khz I2S ADC, will provide all the recording and playback functionality
  • 1 × Sparkfun RN-52 Breakout Board Provides easy, high quality bluetooth audio at 3.3v as well as 13 GPIOs!
  • 1 × Adafruit TS2012 Class D Amplifier Capable of providing 1.7W and 24db of gain, this little amp is perfect for bringing speech level audio up to bone shaking volumes

  • Build History and Inspiration

    Bothwell08/20/2014 at 17:32 0 comments

    I started this project 2 years ago by wrapping some polymorph around a small transducer and hooking it up to a desk mixer. It didnt work great but it was compelling enough for me to keep interested in it and come back to it when i have a eureka moment. Version 1 was not amplified, hence the external mixer, and had no microphone input, and i wanted to use it for music while riding my bike, since the bone conduction still allows for full left-right sound staging. 

    Version 2 used a thingiverse earclip that i printed and augmented to have a clip that fit the transducer, I padded it out with some rubber padding and it worked reasonably well if i used a headphone amplifier.

    Version 2.5 used the same basic concept, i used a different clip as a base (i shall track down and attribute all you fine thingiversers!) and printed a cuff from ninjaflex in an attempt to make it extra comfy, however it still suffered the volume loss issues

    Time to roll back...

    Version 3 is the current build, as with many of my projects, i started by diving in with a final form factor in mind and it resulted in frustration. So i got a strip of some nice breathable strap (inspired by the opendive kit strap, its so nice) and printed some pressure rings. Adafruit has been promoting the small transducers as bone conducting headphones since they started up the learning system, and they had put out instructions for creating a small box with the tranciever in it to use on flat surfaces or skulls or whatever. I grabbed their file, since they had created an elegant clip for the transducer, and modified it into a much shorter, slantier version with strap holes. Taking their amp suggestion i used the TS2012 24db gain amp breakout board, and i have a successfully operating boneconducting headphone, albiet a little ungainly.

    The future: Implantable version mounted on a dermal implant...

  • Big Picture: Implantable AR

    Bothwell08/20/2014 at 17:19 0 comments

    I am obsessed with the world of William Gibson's "Neuromancer"..Obsessed. So the question of how to wear earWorm so that it is not only optimally usable, but also not so futurey that it puts people off. The current model is a strap witha big lump of 3d printed plastic and poly morph, basically a proof of concept for the technology, but it wasnt always this way.

    Initially I printed ear clips, that would wrap behind the wearers ear and be fairly discreet. However this proved less successful at creating the pressure required to conduct sound through the skull. This is still the end goal but the point of attachment to the head is going to be a little more extreme...

    Sub-Dermal Implants. Bone conducting headphones for the partially deaf already exist, they're expensive and hard to get a hold of unless you have a medical reason, as well they are mounted on the users skull. My potential workaround will be to mount the final product on my head using a magnet-topped subdermal implant positioned directly above and behind my dominant ear. This will allow a hard point of attachment on my head, and the foot which holds the dermal in place could potentially be used as an extra close foot for the speaker to get another level of clarity.

    I am currently in the research phases, I shall keep you posted...

  • The Vocal Macro System

    Bothwell08/20/2014 at 17:09 0 comments

    So far in the build of this i've gone through a few iterations of how the actual transducer will work, but now that i have a solid speaker, it's time to map out the macro system. My first experience with macros was in audio recording school, and in learning Pro Tools we would use keyboard maestro to map the buttons of a kensington expert mouse to do fairly complex operations such as selecting silence between transients in a sound wave and removing it. The macros co-opted the sensing capabilities of pro tools to become a totally different tool.

    In this project intend to create a two way feedback system between the phone and the headset by using a Teensy Audio Board to read and analyse the incoming bluetooth audio for specific tones and patterns, played by the phone as ring tones, to automate the playback of pre-recorded voice commands. For instance:

    You want to hear text messages from your boss as soon as they are received, so you put a special ring tone for your bosses texts

    When earWorm hears that ringtone, it references a table of pre-recorded voice commands, initiates communication with the voice client on the phone (by holding a button IO, or playing a clip of the user saying "ok google") and playing back the recorded message to the phone inaudibly to the user. 

    So the experience would be, your boss texts, you hear a ringtone, and then hear the message. Initial setup would be required, but eventually i hope to make it at least as simple as tasker to use.

  • Socially Acceptable Vs. Socially Responsible Wearable Tech.

    Bothwell08/20/2014 at 16:58 0 comments

    The main concept that i'm trying to explore with earWorm is the idea of socially responsible wearable technology. What i mean by socially responsible is personally choosing to use technologies that have a diminished impact on our social interactions. It seems like every new information technology goes through a period of social acceptability testing and adjustment. This can be seen in the gradual acceptance of small touch screen devices and personal computers through the last 20 years. Wearables seem to me to be a lot arder for society to adjust to, even bluetooth headsets still feel too chunky and corny for my own tastes.

    It seems to me that the reason we have a hard time with many types of wearable computing devices is that they require our "points of attention" (or POI as ill call them). These are literally the holes in our heads that allow us to communicate with the outside world, and that we innately know if we can see those holes that, generally speaking, we have the ability to communicate with that other person. Here are a couple of examples:

    1. Headphones - earholes

    Everyone has been told to take em off at one point in time or another, the ubiquitous earbud is both physically dangerous in that it drowns out the outside world, and socially dangerous as they are widely seen as a big "shhhhh" to anyone even attempting conversation.

    2. Glass - eyeholes

    Having been in conversation with a few explorers i can say, i personally do not seem to enjoy having a camera jammed in my face and a tiny screen between me and a conversational partner. 

    With earWorm, I hope to hide the tech (yes there are implications for hidden tech as well, but might as well dive in), so that it doesn't get in the way of conversations and body language, while still offering the wearer the ability to get the notifications and info they want to be served.

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