Reverse Listening Device channels sound to opposite ears

An art project modifies a set of headphones for the unusual purpose of redirecting sound around a person's head.

Reverse listening device in action
Challenge your mind to reconcile with your ears. Piotr Gaska

What if conversations coming from your left side were shuttled into your right ear and vice versa? You would have to reconcile where you visually know the sound is coming from with where it's entering your body. UK artist Dominic Wilcox decided to try it for himself with the creation of the Reverse Listening Device.

The gadget works by using two funnels with tubes that connect from one side of the head to the opposite ear. It's an effective way to mess with your spatial sense. Wilcox describes the sensation of reverse listening as "very strange."

The device was crafted for an unusual window display at Selfridges department store in London. The display also includes a spiky flask and a prototype alarm clock that uses an air compressor and rubber membrane to blow into a bugle for a wake-up call. The ongoing series of exhibits and events is called the "Festival of Imagination." Wilcox's contribution is titled "Variations on Normal," an apt description for his creative takes on everyday objects.

The prototype device is colorful and bulky, and not the sort of thing you would wear out in the real world, though it would certainly make for a loud fashion statement. Perhaps it's not really much sillier than some of the big branded headphones celebrities like to sport.

Reverse listening device on display
It goes in one funnel and out to the other ear. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
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