Technology

Smart headphones could soon stop people walking into traffic while distracted by their phone

New headphones which alert distracted phone users to danger are being tested in New York (Picture: Getty Images
Revolutionary new headphones which warn their users of oncoming danger are being tested in a move that could cut the number of pedestrian deaths.

Scientists are developing pioneering pods following a surge in the number of people walking the streets while glued to their screens – also known as twalking.

Experts began to research new methods of keeping people safe after a spate of pedestrian deaths in New York, which have now reached a 30-year high.

Scientists at Columbia University in the city are working on listening devices which signal imminent harm and are testing them on the noisy streets of the Big Apple.

Dr Fred Jiang, a professor of electrical engineering who is leading the research, said: ‘We are exploring a new area in developing an inexpensive and low-power technology that creates an audio-alert mechanism for pedestrians.’

The smart headphones include miniatur..

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New headphones which alert distracted phone users to danger are being tested in New York (Picture: Getty Images

Revolutionary new headphones which warn their users of oncoming danger are being tested in a move that could cut the number of pedestrian deaths.

Scientists are developing pioneering pods following a surge in the number of people walking the streets while glued to their screens – also known as twalking.

Experts began to research new methods of keeping people safe after a spate of pedestrian deaths in New York, which have now reached a 30-year high.


Scientists at Columbia University in the city are working on listening devices which signal imminent harm and are testing them on the noisy streets of the Big Apple.

Dr Fred Jiang, a professor of electrical engineering who is leading the research, said: ‘We are exploring a new area in developing an inexpensive and low-power technology that creates an audio-alert mechanism for pedestrians.’

The smart headphones include miniature microphone and signal processors which pick up the sound of oncoming traffic.

A young woman starts across a city street with two others in the background. She listens to music on her earbuds as she looks down at her smart phone.
Twalking is a common sight in New York (Picture: Getty Images)

If danger appears, the system sends an audio alert to the user.

The headphones include technology which process all sounds near to the pedestrian, identify the relevant ones and extract the correct cue to signal impending danger.

The researchers have won a development grant of $1.2million, nearly £1million, and they have already won awards for their work.

Black businessman using cell phone on city street
It is hoped the new headphones will save lives (Picture: Getty Images)

Prof Jiang said the long term aim is to sell the headphones to a commercial company so they can be mass produced.

He explained: “We hope that once refined, the technology will be commercialised and mass produced in a way that will help cities reduce pedestrian fatalities.”

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