Air Force Contracts for Mini Headset Technology that Clips to Users’ Teeth
Thursday, September 20, 2018 | Comments

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded phase two of a contract to provide the U.S. Air Force with a new personal communications system incorporating a miniaturized headset into a device that clips to a user’s back teeth.

A press release said Air Force personnel have nicknamed the device “molar mic,” while the formal name is ATAC.

DOD contracted Sonitus Technologies for a multimillion-dollar, multiyear agreement to complete development of the device for transition to fielding and deployment of the system following successful conclusion of the first segment of the contract, funded by the U.S Air Force.

Other qualified branches of the U.S. defense community may leverage the technology as part of the DOD’s program to enhance communications capabilities and operational safety of its personnel. Sonitus was introduced to the DOD by In-Q-Tel, the not-for-profit strategic investor that identifies and partners with startup companies developing innovative technologies that protect and preserve U.S. security.

Peter Hadrovic, CEO of Sonitus Technologies, said the voice interface sustains communications in dangerous and challenging environments.

Pararescuemen (commonly known as PJs) from the Air National Guard 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, participated in early field testing of the Sonitus prototypes, including rescue operations during Hurricane Harvey last year in Houston.

“The ability to communicate by radio is crucial for our mission,” said a PJ. “It enables us to execute in extreme conditions and save lives. But despite having amazing technology, communications still commonly breaks down because of the extreme environments where we operate.”

Parachuting from high-altitude aircraft, working under a hovering helicopter and swimming in open water interfere with traditional communication devices precisely when they are needed most. In one case during Hurricane Harvey, a PJ was involved in airlifting an injured civilian into a helicopter hovering directly overhead and was attempting communications with the helicopter flight engineer and pilot using the Sonitus system. The crew could clearly hear the PJ in these conditions, the company said.

Sonitus uses a patented audio interface and near-field magnetic induction (NFMI) technology in the product. The recent award followed DOD-funded field testing of prototypes by military personnel from all of the major service branches with field experimentation. Testing included multiple scenarios, with and without personal protective equipment, all with extreme noise and without loss of communications.

The solution embeds both a tiny microphone for talking and a speaker-transducer for hearing in a compact custom-fit mouthpiece that snaps around a user’s back teeth. This allows the user to both talk and hear without external devices attached to the head. The placement on the teeth uses the body itself to block external noise when speaking and leverages the user’s teeth and jawbone to create a new auditory path for hearing. The result is an unobstructed head and face, clear communications, enhanced situational awareness and the ability to add or remove personal protective equipment without breaking communications, the company said.

Security personnel, first responders and industrial workers such as those in the energy sector are evaluating the Sonitus solution for their market applications.

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On 9/27/18, James Conner said:
Wonder how it's powered. Where is the PTT? Do cavities affect reception?

On 9/26/18, ALBERT LOWENSTEIN said:
Sounds interesting for other applications. How do you get the signals to/from the unit? Bluetooth? I cannot imagine a wire out of the mouth.

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