The Future Of (2022) s01e12 Episode Script


You're walking home,
and the sounds of the city
are doing the most today.
Lucky for you,
you've got a little something
that's got you covered.
It knows just what you need,
and when you need it.
It clocks your frustration and suddenly
those sounds take a back seat.
The city transforms.
Dogs are being translated
Hey, can you let me off this leash?
Noisy construction is silenced,
but you can still hear
the important things.
Plus those hedge-clipper drones
and chirping birds,
they come together like
a new track from Chloe and Halle.
Forget Spotify,
the world just became your playlist,
and it's all thanks to headphones.
Headphones have let us personalize sound,
but they have the potential
to do so much more.
I see a future, where we do
wear headphones all the time.
A device that monitors
how you're feeling is the future.
Your headphones
will get to know you.
Maybe better than you know yourself.
We'll be wearing devices in our ears
more to listen to our bodies,
than to listen to music.
And they'll let you interact
with the world in a whole new way.
We could hear new experiences.
It's like Instagram, but sound.
Or not.
Can you shut that person up?
But it could also mean
that big tech
might start to look more like Big Brother.
Are we comfortable with being surveyed
on that kind of level, at all times?
With new tech,
more data, and tons of innovation,
the future's gonna sound
a whole lot different.
That would change our life. For sure.
Headphones were originally used
as communication devices.
But over the course of the 20th century,
they evolved into sleek,
portable, ubiquitous accessories
that revolutionized
how we listen to music.
Put on a Walkman,
and see the world in a whole new light.
We get to listen to
what we want, when we want,
and however loud we want.
Music, movies, radio.
When you put a pair of headphones on,
you're disappearing into your content.
But you're also creating this opportunity
for a fully augmented auditory experience.
The ability to have
your own little world, to control,
in effect, your environment,
certainly your audio environment
had an immeasurable impact
on us as people.
It became a classic trope
of TV and movies.
A clear way to show
a character escaping reality.
You've gotta hear this.
It'll change your life.
If you have good headphones on,
the most mundane stuff
that you're looking at,
can just look super romantic.
That's the power of sound.
It can change context
and manipulate emotions.
Imagine that scene from the movie Ghost,
but without the music.
Ooh, it's just really awkward.
Headphones already soundtrack our lives,
but there are innovators out there
working to make them even more powerful.
Take noise cancellation.
It's been hailed
as the survival tool for modern life.
It's a great feature,
but it's not perfect.
Some of the problems
with noise cancellation
are the dynamics of how
it engages with different types of noise.
It's fairly easy to cancel out
low-frequency stable sounds,
like the rumble of an airplane.
But sound is rarely
that static and predictable.
So while an airplane rumble
is not an issue for your headphones,
that crying baby next to you might be.
The headphones of today
continue to look cooler,
have better sound quality,
and can even block out parts
of the world around us.
But the headsets
of tomorrow may soon do way more.
Because in the future,
instead of us listening to headphones,
headphones may actually listen to us.
I do believe in,
not so far past five years,
we'll be wearing devices in our ears
more to listen to our bodies
than to listen to music.
Our ears are in a great spot
to collect brain activity.
Our brains contain
around one hundred billion neurons,
which are constantly sending
electrical signals back and forth.
And we can detect
that activity using a test
called an electroencephalogram, or EEG,
which picks up
our brain's electrical activity.
And you can have a sensor
in your ear to pick up that signal.
EEGs have been used to diagnose
everything from dementia
to sleep disorders.
But they aren't limited to those things.
Combined with some kind
of AI and machine learning,
these signals can
be used to really interpret and translate
what you're feeling
and what you're thinking at any moment.
In a way,
headphones will be able to read your mind.
I would really like
thought-activated headphones.
I'd just be like,
"I love this song, turn it up."
There are a bunch
of companies out there
that are currently making EEG headsets.
And they're already developing products
that claim they can clear your mind
and reduce stress.
We're gonna start off
by putting these, uh, headphones on here.
- Mm-hm?
- That are gonna record brain activity.
- Oh.
- And we'll be able
to see your focus in real time.
Boston startup Neurable
is one company
developing these smart headphones,
with EEG sensors built into the ear-pads.
They're designed to measure brain wave
patterns associated with concentration.
Basically, your attention span.
This is your brain focused.
This is your brain distracted. And then
We send it to our machine learning system,
that is able to interpret
that brain activity
in order to help you better understand
whether you're at a high
or a low level of attention,
and empower you to make changes
based off of that information.
Like what time of the day
you're most alert
and when you need a break.
The technology behind devices like this
is still in its infancy.
So experts are still exploring
all the ways this data can be applied.
A common challenge with all EEG devices
is isolating the brain signals
you want to measure.
But in the future,
your headphones will be aided
by many types of sensors
collecting all kinds of different data.
Like heart rate.
Your stress levels.
Blood oxygen levels.
Your sleeping patterns,
your moods.
The sensors would be small
and inconspicuous.
Something that has direct contact
with your body
and that you'd never have
to take off. Something like
Electronic skin.
Or, e-skin.
My lab has been working
on electronic skin since 2017.
A small,
sticky, sweatproof patch
embedded with sensors that
continuously monitors your health data.
It can measure moisture, UV exposure,
and even the composition of your sweat.
It can track the direction of your eyes.
When my eyes move, they go back and forth.
That little movement creates
a tiny electrical signature
that we can measure, just inside the ear.
And behind the ear
is an unobtrusive spot
for the patch to collect information.
E-skin could work with your headphones,
or an e-skin-like device
could directly incorporate them.
We could use something
like conductive vibrations to patch
the music directly into your head
so that your whole skull
becomes part of the audio system.
And if those headphones
know exactly how you're feeling,
they can help you do
a lot more than stay focused.
One fun thing could be,
understanding what your mood is
at the moment.
And providing content based on that.
If I'm feeling melancholy,
I want to listen to Nick Drake.
Or even, it's the opposite
to your emotional state.
They could work out when you're feeling
anxious and play some relaxing music.
Unless you want to feel down.
But then of course there's times where
you just need to have a boot up the bum
to get you out of that.
It also doesn't have to be music.
It will give you the perfect sonic
environment based on what it's picking up,
from moment to moment about your mood.
But in order
for all this to work,
your headphones will have
to learn a lot about you.
Your headphones will not just
be reading your thoughts,
but will do it within the context
of everything else you're doing.
So it knows where you are,
what time of day it is.
Are you at the office? Are you at home?
Out with friends in a restaurant?
And they'd also get to know
what helps you relax
and what keeps you focused.
But there's a catch.
All this data could be in the hands
of a profit-focused corporation,
and your privacy may not be a priority.
This scenario sound familiar?
Conversation with friends
And you'll happen
to casually mention
that you're planning a vacation in Greece.
Open Instagram and get ads
for the thing you were talking about.
But at least today,
social media platforms like Instagram
aren't literally listening to you.
It's mining data in various places
and able to predict
what you're thinking about at one time,
especially if you went
and Google searched,
then it's a straight giveaway.
What we're talking about is technology
that knows what you're thinking
at that moment.
That's actually actively listening to you,
and taking that data.
Just imagine how personalized
your already very personalized ads
will become.
Hey, Alex, maybe it's time
for a vacation. How about Greece?
Or how sophisticated
your streaming algorithms will get.
It looks like you're not
really engaged in this episode.
Stranger Things season 47 just released.
I'll put it on for you.
People need to get their heads
around how comfortable they are with that.
Companies might one day
use this data
to literally manipulate what you hear,
and how you feel.
People, I think,
understandably get freaked out
about being read by machines.
We often accept
exchanging privacy for convenience,
and we'll need to decide what to demand
of the companies offering this trade-off.
Because this data will be more valuable
and the convenience will be
unlike anything we've ever seen,
or rather heard, before.
As headphones become better
at interpreting sound,
they can begin interacting with it.
Instead of simply tuning out reality,
the headphones of the far future
will let you augment it.
When people think about augmented reality,
they immediately focus on sight.
But, in fact, the most prolific
augmented reality we're going to see
is going to be with sound.
Everyone always talks
about AR glasses,
but the future may lie in AR headphones.
You're in a crowded environment,
it's tough to hear.
And there's a lot
of people talking around you,
and you really only want
to focus to one individual at a time.
So if I have that insight,
now I can have my technology
respond to it,
change the signal-to-noise ratio.
Just mute background noise
and just hear the people I'm talking to.
If there's someone
at the table I really don't like,
they're annoying, maybe mute them too.
Can you shut that person up?
Just that person. Great.
Or even have a little fun
when you shut them up.
Bored to tears at the DMV?
Your headphones could turn everyone
into the star of an opera in your head.
You know those filters
that put dog ears on your selfies?
It's like Instagram, but sound.
Sure, this stuff won't solve
the world's problems,
but it will make
your partner's friends more bearable.
I feel like there is potential
to expand and enhance your experience.
It's not just
about your physical ability to hear.
It may also be
about your ability to understand.
Another use of this would be
real-time translation between languages.
Translation headphones already exist.
But they only work if you speak slowly
and don't use any slang.
But in the future,
translation technology will only get
to know us and the way we speak better.
The ability to walk into a room,
and your headphones understand instantly
which language someone is talking.
And can in real time translate that,
that's a really exciting technology,
and something a lot
of people would embrace.
This seamless translation
will change the way we travel.
Imagine going to a country
where you didn't speak the language
and actually understanding
everything happening around you.
And why stop with just people?
What if this tech could translate animals?
You've got a translation device.
If your dog barks,
the device can translate that.
Hey, welcome home.
Get the leash right now,
or I'm gonna piss on the floor.
And that's just a small part
of what the headphones
of the far future may be able to offer.
Imagine if you had something
that could give you just
whatever sound environment you wanted.
You could be walking down the street,
listening to music,
but you're worried also about traffic.
You don't want to walk out
in front of a truck.
These headphones would tell you
when a truck is coming
and play that sound up.
Or maybe even give you
a verbal cue saying
Watch out,
truck coming from the left!
But the rest of the ruckus
will just fade away.
Instead of hearing traffic,
your headphones
are actually triggering sounds
that you really like,
in time to the world
that you're looking at.
So it will be literally making music
to what you're seeing.
Jackhammer sounds,
construction sounds,
could become percussion.
So it just becomes
this very powerful interplay
between how technology reads the body,
how it personalizes
the interactions to the individual.
But will
all this personalization come at a cost?
Will it end up alienating us
from each other?
The one thing
about headphones is it does put us
into our own little world.
And we want that a lot of the time,
when we wear headphones.
But it would be really nice
if there was a step forward
where headphones could be
a more collective experience together.
Say you meet a friend of yours listening
to music and they want to share with you.
They'd be able to do that instantly,
but maybe you're listening
to something else
and both on
slightly different energy levels.
You could merge that music together.
Remix them into something
that balances your emotional states,
so that you're on the same page.
I love the creative aspect of it.
And I wonder if it could be a situation
where you're sitting having coffee,
and you're chatting, and at the same time,
your headphones are making love
with each other.
And you end up with an amazing track
at the end of your chat.
That sounds better
than Figaro at the DMV.
Headphones of the future will go beyond
entertaining us when we're bored.
They will help us connect with each other
and share our emotions,
making our future world
a much brighter place.
One where we never say,
"Sorry, I don't understand you,"
and walk away.
The more that our headphones
enable seamless, continuous
transmission of information
without having to interact with them,
the more we have really advanced
in a way that benefits
human connectivity and human experience.
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