MIT’s LeakyPhones Help You Interact with Strangers by Sharing Music at a Glance

The Tangible Media Group within MIT’s Media Lab is focused on researching human interaction with the gadgets and gizmos around us, and how…

Cameron Coward
a year agoMusic

The Tangible Media Group within MIT’s Media Lab is focused on researching human interaction with the gadgets and gizmos around us, and how that technology affects social dynamics. Their research has led to a number of interesting developments that we’ve featured in the past here on Hackster, but this is one you’re either going to love or hate. Amos Golan’s LeakyPhones are headphones that let you share your music with a stranger at a glance — and that let them share their music with you.

Golan’s motivation for this project is rooted in our current social dynamics, or lack thereof. In the past, starting a conversation with a stranger was a simple matter of saying “hello” when you made eye contact for a moment. These days, many of us spend our time in public with our eyes glued to our smartphones and our ears covered with headphones. For many of you, that’s a good thing — you don’t want strangers talking to you anyway. But, there’s no denying the effect it’s having on spontaneous interactions.

LeakyPhones is intended to open the doors back up to that kind of interaction, but respectfully. The idea is that if two people wearing LeakyPhones come across each other and hold eye contact for a moment, they’ll begin to hear what the other person is listening to. The longer they hold eye contact, the more the stranger’s music starts to overcome their own. Hopefully, that will spark a conversation.

There are, of course, a number of privacy concerns here. Many of you are already cringing at the idea of a stranger hearing what you’re listening to, or you hearing what they’re listening to. That’s why LeakyPhones has four different operating modes. You can either choose to allow transmission of your own music or not, and choose to receive music from strangers or not. It allows for controlled social interactions with strangers, but only when you want it.

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