Bite into your music with jaw-controlled iPhone player

Bite twice quickly to play tunes through Rhythmi-Kamu earphones

Gum maker Lotte has developed prototype earphones that can detect and count how many times users bite or chew. When linked with an iPhone, they can be used to control a music player by biting twice to start playback.

Gum maker Lotte has developed prototype earphones that can detect and count how many times users bite or chew. When linked with an iPhone, they can be used to control a music player by biting twice to start playback.

If its bite-controlled iPhone app is any indication, gum maker Lotte wants music to be chewable.

The Japanese and Korean confectionery maker has developed prototype earphones that can sense when users chew and count the number of chews. It suggests this could be a novel way of controlling music playback.

The sensor-equipped Rhythmi-Kamu earphones can detect movement in the ear canal. They can be used with a music player on an iPhone through a Bluetooth link -- when users bite twice quickly, playback will start. When they bite twice quickly again, it will stop.

A graph on the iPhone app can display how many times users have chewed per minute as well as the total count.

"Lotte will research the relationship between chewing and health," the company said on the Rhythmi-Kamu website, which contains a YouTube video showing three young Japanese women from the idol group HKT48 trying the device.

In the video demo, the earphones light up and emit a squeaky electronic sound every time a bite is taken. After snacking on "onigiri" rice balls and checking their bite counts, one woman announces she's chewed 224 times, another 294 times, and the third 346 times.

The prototype is being developed in conjunction with researchers from Hiroshima City University and Tokyo Dental College. Aside from being a control interface, the app could encourage users to chew their food more. That could lead to health benefits through increased awareness of how much and how quickly food is being consumed.

At CES in 2013, HAPIlabs showed off the HAPIfork, a connected fork that can monitor how fast you're eating and tell you to slow down. The utensil later picked up over US$130,000 in funding on Kickstarter.

Lotte has not said whether it will commercialize the Rhythmi-Kamu earphones, but the gadget could encourage people to buy more Lotte gum.

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Tim Hornyak

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