In the popular video game series "Metal Gear Solid," the main character, Snake, communicates with his superiors via a wireless communication device called a codec, which resonates the bones in his head so he can hear messages sent to him. Sonitus Technologies, under the direction of the CIA and US Defense Department, has effectively created the same thing, the company announced Wednesday.
"Essentially, what you are doing is receiving the same type of auditory information that you receive from your ear, except that you are using a new auditory pathway — through your tooth, through your cranial bones — to that auditory nerve. You can hear through your head as if you were hearing through your ear," Sonitus CEO Peter Hadrovic told Defense One. He noted the sensation is similar to how one "hears" a deafening crunch when eating breakfast cereal — except now it's human speech.
"Sonitus Technologies is honored to bring this game-changing technology to our country's elite military, making them safer and more effective by enabling them to communicate clearly — even in the most extreme situations," Hadrovic said, according to Business Wire. "The voice interface sustains communications in dangerous and challenging environments. The Molar Mic is the first in our family of solutions that conventional approaches are unable to address."
Phase I of the contract dates to 2016, when the CIA's not-for-profit investment arm, In-Q-Tel, asked for the system, Business Wire noted. Phase II, announced Wednesday, seals a $10 million contract to provide the system to the US Air Force.
Motherboard noted that the company claims the molar mic can pick up a whisper amid loud environments without difficulty, making communication in extremely loud environments, such as inside a helicopter, possible.
The mic is connected to a transmitter through near-field magnetic induction, similar to Bluetooth but harder to snoop on, and signals can be sent through water, Defense One noted.
While the molar mic has been tested in several environments over the last few years, one notable instance was in 2017, when California National Guard units equipped with the devices were sent to the Houston area to help with rescue operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Hadrovic told Defense One the airmen were pleased with the device's performance.
"This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above," Hadrovic conveyed. "He says, ‘There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product.'"