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Wireless Networking Handhelds Hardware Technology

Magnetic Induction Technology Headset Reviewed 158

Posted by timothy
from the crystals-don't-sound-so-hot dept.
Semi-Anonymous Coward writes "The first review of a wireless headset using Magnetic Induction technolgy has been posted at mobile technology website MobileBurn. The reviewer mentions that the technology provides almost 'crystal clear' phone conversations, which is better than most Bluetooth headsets he has used. The magnetic induction technology creates a 'bubble' around the user which increases the security of their communications. Is this the replacement for Bluetooth in Audio applications? It certainly looks like it..."
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Magnetic Induction Technology Headset Reviewed

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  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:54PM (#7571864) Homepage Journal

    The magnetic induction technology creates a 'bubble' around the user which increases the security of their communications

    Olde news, Maxwell Smart [gasou.edu] had this back in the 60's.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Especially since the Earth's magnetic field is weakening and preparing to flip [pbs.org] from N-S to S-N.

    Save your money [pbs.org].
  • Is it just me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tbase (666607) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:55PM (#7571877)
    ...or is anyone else a little apprehensive about pairing the phrases "magnetic induction" and "headset"?
    • by JPelorat (5320) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:02PM (#7571949)
      Not really.. maybe if it was 'magnetic induction' and 'jockstrap'...
    • by brunes69 (86786)
      Contrary to popular belief, there is no person named "Magneto" and it would pretty much be impossible to magnetically rip the iron out of you rblood.

      Aside from nonsense such as this I don't know why you'd be afraid of a magnatic field. Researchers with supercolliders are routinely within very short distances of fields orders of magnitude greater than anything this would produce.
      • Think of the scientist that has two horribly mutated children, one of them has 3 arms, the other has 6 fingers; it doesn't get much worse than that.

    • Just how strong is this magnetic induction field?

      And how long will it take to abuse the floppies (or tapes) in my desk drawer?

    • by Walter Wart (181556)
      Not really. An MRI scanner uses fields of about 2 TESLA. That's tens of thousands of times as strong as the Earth's magnetic field. It doesn't make your blood boil through hysterisis or anything like that.
    • Don't worry! To see research done about magnetic induction technology in wearable electronics, just search for "speaker bracelet" on Google.
    • by C10H14N2 (640033) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @08:46PM (#7574127)
      Yessss, we have for a long time been developing a device, a moving coil if you will, based on advanced principles of magnetic induction by which we transform soundwaves into electrical current. We call this device a "m i c r o p h o n e." Our scientists have managed to reverse this process in similar device we call a "l o u d s p e a k e r." These devices can be combined into a single destructive device we refer to as a "h e a d s e t."

      We will require you to provide us with one MEEEELION dollars lest we will be forced to unleash these powerful devices on your populations.

      If you resist, we will be forced to also unveil our deathray "e l e c t r o n g u n" that when paired with our "h e a d s e t" will be sure to cause mass chaos, death and destruction.

      Really, people, whose going to be afraid of a fricking walkman and a television? Really. Didn't anyone make it out of junior high science class? Anyone?
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:56PM (#7571897) Journal
    ... which I can see being great for the phone. Does it interfere with the WiFi network as well ? If A interferes with B, shouldn't you expect (B) to interfere with A...

    "Excuse me Mr. Jones, could you move to the other side of the room please, you're corrupting the network"...

    Simon.

    • Actually, I wonder what interferes with the headset, more than what the low-power transmitter interferes with. Does the thing scream like a banshee if you happen to be sitting next to a monitor or TV set? Doesn't mention in the article, but I'm curious.
  • by MarkGriz (520778) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:57PM (#7571911)
    while wearing your tinfoil hat?
    • by Orne (144925) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @06:43PM (#7573312) Homepage
      Heh, you should see what happens when you put aluminum cans in a high power magnetic induction device... Whew, found some images at TeslaMania [teslamania.com] for before [205.243.100.155] and after [205.243.100.155]...

      When I was in school, the prof brought one of these into lab one day, and he was using it to railgun things across the room... They kept it locked up because some years before a student thought it would be funny to wrap a banana in foil and stick it into the machine, and it worked... picture a in your head a fine mist of burnt banana covering a good portion of a large freshman electronics lab, and that's close to the result. This site [slcc.edu] explains why with pictures.
  • The fact that no current or announced cell phones have this "magnetic induction technology", probably means that we're a few years away from mass adoption. Few people want to attach a wired adapter to their phone in order to use a wireless headset. Bluetooth still rules the land of wireless headsets! Long live Bluetooth!
  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by jetkust (596906) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:58PM (#7571916)
    Now when i stand up from my computer I wont step on the chord, yank my neck, and break my headphones everytime.
  • by ptomblin (1378) <ptomblin@xcski.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @03:59PM (#7571925) Homepage Journal
    I thought the company name was "MobileBum". Damn sans-serif fonts.
    • I thought the company name was "MobileBum". Damn sans-serif fonts.

      Incidentally, this is also why spam emails implore you to buy something so you can curn like a pr0n star.
    • Actually, it was a serif font. That is what causes the letters to look like they run together. A sans-serif font on the other hand does not have the little serif marks and distinctly separates the characters.
  • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@NOspAm.freeshell.org> on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:01PM (#7571938) Homepage Journal
    No phone uses magnets and induction?

    I can think of a device in a phone that does.

    The idea is that a coil of wire (known as an "inductor") creates a magnetic field due to an electric current that varies in strength (this is known as an "electromagnet"), which then attracts and repels it, along with a cone designed to move sound, from a permanent magnet. In other words, the movement of the electromagnet moves the cone, which moves the air to create sound. Clever isn't it? Modern, perhaps? The whole mechanism is currently known as a "speaker."

    I'm sure that this is neat and modern, but the naming scheme leaves something to be desired. What does "magnetic induction" mean in this case?
    • by aero6dof (415422) <aero6dof@yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:13PM (#7572056) Homepage
      Try this whitepaper [auracomm.com]. If they can get into the same cost range, it sounds like a nice technology for personal electronic communications.
    • I can think of a device in a phone that [uses magnets and induction].

      I think the telecoil that works with hearing aids also does so. "Telecoil couplers allow output of a personal amplifier, FM or infrared receiver to be magnetically coupled into a hearing aid with a T-switch."
    • A good introduction to the technology and how it differs from RF is here [commsdesign.com]
  • Bout time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by carn1fex (613593) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:01PM (#7571944)
    I always wondered why this effect wasnt exploited more often for short range comm. So easy in the lab to take your poorly designed digital circuit and just put an oscilliscope near and and walla, theres the data on your circuit, no modulation or other assorted rubish.
  • Not so private? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cruff (171569) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:04PM (#7571962) Homepage
    The manufacturer's web site seems to be claiming that this gives some privacy due to the use of near field magnetic induction. However, magnetic field antennas (i.e. AM broadcast band ferrite loop stick antennas) are used commonly to receive signals. It seems that all one need do is make a loop antenna sensitive to the 13.5 MHz frequency used and you could listen in with a shortwave receiver. Unless, of course, they encrypted the signal.
    • They did encrypt the signal, and also spread-spectrum'ed it.

      But you wouldn't get anything useful with your shortwave receiver; the broadcating antenna's geometry is all wrong for radio waves. I'm not sure, but IIRC your receiving antenna would have to be pretty scary, too. IANAH (I am not a ham).

      -Billy
  • Looks like a nice development, but the adapter looks kinda hinder-some. Too bad they can't make it a bluetooth direct headset.

  • More ads (Score:1, Interesting)

    by MushMouth (5650)
    Do us a favour, stop posting "reviews" hosted from the products own websites.
    • Re:More ads (Score:4, Funny)

      by hudsonhawk (148194) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:29PM (#7572201)

      ...did you even click the link, or did you just look sternly at it and decide to make an angry post?

      Mobile Burn [mobileburn.com] is a site that reviews cell phones and accessories.

      Auracomm [auracomm.com] is the company that makes the product in question.

      An idiot [reference.com] is a person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years unable to learn connected speech, such as the nice , pretty complete sentences used in the news item above.

      Go away now.

      • I did click on it and the request timed out. (Maybe in the future they should have a link to the product on the companies home page, so they spread the load)
        • And maybe this was a typical result of being slashdotted. Don't you kind of EXPECT a server subject to the most recent slashdot story to be having trouble keeping up with a sudden and unexpected increase in load?
    • Except that this isn't the products own website.
    • Next thing you know we'll have stories about penis enlargement technology cut-and-pasted directly from a spam e-mail.
    • Uh, How much did you pay for your 5650 UID?
  • by jmoriarty (179788)
    Is this now the fastest way to give myself brain cancer? There are so many neat options on the market these days, I find it difficult to find the best solution for my particular needs. With the holiday seasons almost upon us, this could be a gift that keeps on giving.
    • Well, maybe /. will post an article about how to nuild your own at-home high speed particle accelerator/collider. Either that, or a "make your own fission reactor" article. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go have a smoke.
  • First of all, whts the big deal over Bluetooth? We have been hearing more about it dying than the "BSD" troll. Bluetooth allows multiple devices to connect up and allows recognition of capabilities.

    Simple inductive loop systems were deployed many years ago for places like art galleries and museums. It works, but needs a bit of power. If the transmiter is static, no problem. Maybe the power thing is solved now, but Bluetooth is for a lot more than headsets.

  • kiss of death (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Eyston (462981)
    I'm sure MobileBurn is ecstatic to be labeled as the next bluetooth

    -Eyston
  • The big question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by elvum (9344) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:11PM (#7572040) Journal
    The big question is security. Magnetic induction technology is in widespread use already - post-office counters, public address systems and ticket booths are often fitted with inductive loops for the benefit of hearing-aid users, who can pick up the sound from them directly by switching their aids to a special setting.

    The article doesn't say, but one hopes that the manufacturers have built some reasonably sophisticated security into their system - if not, then eavesdropping devices for them are already in widespread use. :-)
    • Another problem is that 60Hz AC can be a problem if it is simply "in the clear", where an audio signal is transmitted linearly into a magnetic signal.

      Linearly translating a magnetic signal to an audio signal is what hearing aids do. I can hear all sorts of crap, I can hear the spark plug firings on a car, the vertical scanning on a monitor, the crazy stuff that flourescent light balasts do, etc, not to mention the power lines.
  • Is it safe to use with my tinfoil/aluminum foil hat?

    Is it alien approved?

    Oh my that's two questions... SEE! I'm being controlled!
  • Stats (Score:2, Informative)

    The stats sheet [auracomm.com] is a pdf.

    Apparently the range from the base is only 4-6 feet. So we're not talking portable phone quality or anything (although my POS phone only really does about 10 feet from the base without cutting out anyway).

  • Tinfoil Hat? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superid (46543) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:17PM (#7572087) Homepage
    I'm not sure I really want a magnetic field around my head. I recall an episode of "Scientific American Frontiers" (no energy to find link, Alan Alda, PBS, etc) with a physiologist investigating the brains ability to adapt and allocate bored portions of the brain for other tasks. They blinfolded a volunteer and showed how her optical cortex began processing tactile rather than visual inputs.

    THEN, they used a magnetic field (applied via wand to the back of her head) to essentially erase/shut off/disable this new function. They were quite casual about it, and it was pretty obvious that the erasure was well established.

    So, count me out!

    [Kent Brockman] "...ahem....Little girl ...Likes! brain!"
    • I'm not sure I really want a magnetic field around my head.

      Better leave Earth then!
    • No... you're much better off wearing them as rings, to get eternal life [alexchiu.com].
      The scientific basis for that is about as great as it is for worrying about the effect of this strength of magnetic field. In case you hadn't noticed there are natural magnetic fields passing over, around and through you every second of your life, often considerably stronger than your typical consumer field-strength.
  • It might get interesting if this evolved into a complete wireless virtual reality helmet. That said, though, I don't want strong electromagnetic fields passing through my brain.
  • The marketing folks, that is.

    Here I was thinking the thing induced a perception of sound via magnetic fields in the user's head. Without the intermediate vibrating air molecules that regular loudspeakers use.

    Didn't see anything about that.

    "Communication Bubble"? Holy cats--they're selling you on the wonders of limited transmitter range, people!

    The signal from transmitter to earpiece is still regular old EM radiation. This thing just utilizes the B field rather than the E field. Not often used, b

  • by teneighty (671401) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:25PM (#7572172)
    Most phones are already fitted with an induction coil in the handset - these are there to work with hearing aids (I wear one myself). In older phones, and certain new-ish payphones these induction coils work extremely well - good clear sound, and they couple with the hearing aid well. But the vast majority of modern phones - including those labelled "hearing aid compatible" have induction coils that barely work at all. It's impossible to find a phone that works with a PABX system that has an adequate induction coil that works with a hearing aid. I looked far and wide and tried a few devices, but in the end I had to give up - there is literally no such thing as a phone or device that works with a PABX system that approaches the effectiveness of my home phone, in terms of being able to hear it. There is a third-party handset sold for this purpose (IIRC, the brand is "Walker"), but its induction coil is very weak too -- all they did was to to put a very cheap and nasty amplifier in the handset - and we all know exactly how much THAT benefits the sound quality. It would make my life a lot easier to be able to find a phone for the office that I can use. I wonder if this new gizmo could be adapted somehow...
    • The Nokia inductive loop fitment (fits 6310s etc, do not believe what it says on the box - Nokia don't know their own product range) works superbly, though if like me you have an in-ear aid you have to put up with strangers thinking you are completely mad - holding a conversation with yourself with no visible equipment at all. There is a Motorola version which for some reason is far more expensive. Sound quality is vastly better than Bluetooth headsets etc. simply because the transducers in phones and heads
    • If your hearing aid has a T-Coil, get a Hatis adaptor. The Producer model works with ITE (in the ear) hearing aids. The director model works with BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids. It plugs into any standard 3.5mm audio jack.

      View their product line at hatis [hatis.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Really, this tech seems like a great leap backwards. I can't think of any advantage except price. With bluetooth you have decent range (leave the phone on a table and walk around 10-15m away), encryption and pairing (so your headset talks to your phone, and not everyone in range) and it's already available in phone, PDAs, computers (use your headset for VoIP...).

    Really, what's wrong with bluetooth?
  • Magnetic induction.... WOW, you mean like Radio, Faraday's law & all that? This is a breakthrough, forget that Marconi guy, this magnetic induction could be the next big thing!

  • Can you hear me now?
  • please... who authorized such stupid article ? magnetic induction is at lease 100 years old... I am not in the mood to go look for maxwell's age and its precursors, but please... every antena uses magnetic induction...

    oh, but wait.. we could lauch a better device that uses ELETRO magnetic induction ! ....

    please... save me oh lord (of the rings)
    • Yeh.. when I was a little kid, and that was way some time ago, I remember the Church installed transmit loops in a few of the pews and passed little receivers so the deaf could listen into the preacher's mike directly. The little receivers had believe it or not, little vacuum tubes, I think they were 1U5 and 3V4, if I remember correctly. They ran on 2 flashlight batteries and one 67.5 volt battery.

      I remember marveling at the high technology, as the church had its very own "radio station", albeit it only

  • I have a handspring treo (love it). The headphone jack is a 3 conductor instead of the standard 2 conductor plug. It's almost impossible to find 3 conductor adaptors for the damn thing. I really want something like the auracomm headset, but if it doesn't work with a 3C plug then I'm screwed. Anyone know of a company that makes something like this?
    • I beleive the Treo uses the 4 conductor 2.5mm submini connector. The only other cell phone jack I've seen that on is on some of the newer Nokias - like the 8890, & 8260. You coud scavange a Nokia headset and do some soldering. -chris
  • I need more crap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NineNine (235196) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @04:48PM (#7572362)
    Yes. I need more crap. I need a selection of 50,000 different headsets because damnit, a telephone is just *too* heavy to pick up with my hand. I need to buy some overpriced plastic crap because I'm just that lazy. Really. Sell me some more shit, /. I'm also looking for a device that'll hold my dick while I pee, because I really can't be bothered with that much effort.
    • I need a selection of 50,000 different headsets because damnit, a telephone is just *too* heavy to pick up with my hand

      Yeah. Because the main point of a cell phone headset is to alleviate hand/arm strain due to phone weight and not to free up hands (and brain focus) from the phone so they can do unimportant things like DRIVING.

  • Talk about technology that has been around since the 50's making a comeback. But if you think about it, in the 50's one would have to have four foot wide coils and cumbersome gear to make it work. How many wanna bet, wireless routers are going to be next? I wanna see your war-drive that...
  • by tkjtkj (577219) <tkjtkj@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @05:03PM (#7572495)
    magnetic induction is not the best thing to have around such things as creditcards, computer chips, and compasses .. So ... how safe is it for the above devices?? tkjtkj
  • This is slightly OT, but I'd like to hear from anyone who has tried a binaural (dual-speaker) headset for regular phones. I tried to look for one, but they all require a very expensive amplifier.

    I have a regular one-ear headset right now and it is not convenient for loud environments. All I want is a headset with two speakers and a mike that plugs into a regular phone's 2.5mm jack.

    Any idea where I could find this?

  • is also the name of their server, as the Slashdot community descends en masse. Anyone able to mirror it?

  • This just looks like ultra wide band communication to me -- just with a different buzz word attached. They probably just pulse an electromagnet on and off to produce a digital signal that is picked up by the reciever. When you vary the intensity of a magnetic field you produce electro magnetic radiation. Since they are pulses and not a signal modulated at sum carrier frequency the frequency spectrum that is emmited is across a large spectrum. Hence the name ultra wide band communication. Because of the way
  • Kip Kokinakis runs Aura, and he's the same guy that ran 3D sound pioneer Aureal Semiconductor. ExtremeTech's got an article [extremetech.com] on Aura from earlier this year that answers the cancer question. Kip also talks about the last days of Aureal in this sidebar [extremetech.com].

    Personally, I always thought the Aureal cards were damn good, myself.

  • H vs E Fields (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MountainLogic (92466) on Wednesday November 26, 2003 @06:07PM (#7573046) Homepage
    This is a lot more interesting than you might think. H (near) field communication is really unexplored in the commercial world. It is rather limited in range (meter or two) and for the most part it is rather ignored in EMC testing (Electro-Magnetic Compatability [read FCC testing]). If you want to see a cool example of H field interference dig up two 10 year old 20" monitors and put them side by side and watch the wicked interferance. Even if you wrap the monitors in a grounded wire mesh you will still see interferance because the problem is a magnetic H field not an E field (RF) signal. To kill the interferance you need to use a Mu Metal shield (or one heck of a lot of iron). Of course, one application's interferance is another signal. If you are really carefull about building your H field and not generate much E field it would be rather secure from evesdropping outside of 4 or 5 meters.
  • After seeing this article [slashdot.org] on slashdot I contacted the company and got one. After having had it 3 weeks I discovered some problems, but none serious.
    1. There are some problems with magnetic fields, mostly in areas with low hanging power cables,lthough it doesn't cut out the quality is less than perfect. Other sources of magnetic fields cause similar problems.
    2. There are some Nokia compatability problems, these can be solved by using an adapter with is usually included, although I didn't get it with the sample
  • The tech isn't new at all, but I *am* surprised at how seldom I see it. The most common magnetic-induction arrangement is a _large_ loop inductor (e.g. a loop of wire running around the entire perimeter of a room), and a magnetically inducted device, such as a headset, used inside the loop/room. The main advantage of this type of technology is that it operates at "ground zero" of the RF spectrum (from 0 to a few KHz), and is carrierless. With a sufficiently sensitive receiving device (crystal headset) or st

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