Bone-conduction system makes people hear—willingly or not

David Kirkwood
July 9, 2013



A prototype of the transmitter made by Audiva was used to create the vibrations in The Talking Window."

A prototype of the transmitter made by Audiva was used to create the vibrations in “The Talking Window.”

CANNES, FRANCE–Bone-conduction devices are most often used to help people who want to hear better but aren’t good candidates for conventional air-conduction hearing aids. This technology, which has been around since the 1970s, is frequently prescribed to people with conductive or unilateral hearing loss or who have abnormalities of the outer ear that prevent them from wearing in-the-ear or behind-the-ear instruments.

However, last month, the ingenious folks at the advertising agency BBDO Germany  introduced The Talking Window, a system that uses bone conduction to make people hear ads and other messages they may have no desire to hear.

Introduced at the International Festival of Creativity in the Mediterranean resort city of Cannes, the system includes a small box that can be attached to the window a of train or bus to transmit inaudible, high-frequency vibrations into the glass.

Why would anybody want to do that? Very simple. When passengers lean their weary heads against the window next to them, those vibrations will be transmitted from the glass to their skull and from there on to their brain via bone conduction. When that happens, an unsuspecting person expecting a restful ride back home from the office, will “suddenly hear a voice inside their head talking to them,” according to an online video demonstrating The Talking Window.” What that voice says to them, over and over, is “Are you bored? Get Sky Go for your mobile.”

BBDO Germany developed this novel advertising medium for Sky Deutschland, a German broadcaster. At last report, the company had not decided if it would actually try “The Talking Window” on real-life commuters. But if it does, BBDO Germany will be ready.

Ulf Brychcy, a BBDO spokesman, told the BBC, “If our customer Sky Deutschland agrees, we will start with the new medium as quickly as possible. At present, this is limited to the German market. If we look into the future, everything is possible.”


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