Science

These Skull-Thumping Headphones Are Literally For The Birds

A lot of us put earbuds in our ears, but that’s about as intrusive as mainstream headphone-wearing gets for us humans. This pair of bird headphones is a bit different. Epoxied to this little guy’s skull, this set of special headphones is blasting some off-key tunes so scientist can learn how bird auto-tune works.

The minds behind this project are Samuel Sober at Emory University in Atlanta and Michael Brainard of the University of California, San Francisco, who aim to find out more about how birds tune themselves in mid-song. When the bird sings, the headphones (which although attached to the skull are at least cushioned) play back a pitch-shifted version of the song to see how the bird reacts. It turns out if the pitch shift is small, they’ll try to fix it, but if it’s way off, they’ll just ignore it, probably because they don’t even recognise it as themselves.

What’s the ultimate goal of this research? Ostensibly to learn something cool about how birds hear themselves, and let’s all just hope that’s it; I’m perfectly fine with my own non-bird headphones that I can take off at will. [New Scientist via DVICE]

Picture: Sam Sober/Emory University