Isn't it just the worst feeling ever when you realize you've put the wrong earphone into the wrong ear? I consider myself to be an expert on directional knowledge (okay, sometimes I still get left and right mixed up), yet even I'm constantly duped by the good ol' switcheroo that earphones like to perform.

But not anymore! The Japan Science and Technology Agency has fashioned a self-aware earphone capable of telling which ear it's in, and whether it's even your ear; now you can have stereo sound from just one earpiece when sharing the pair with a friend.

The "Universal Earphones" can figure all this out with the use of a proximity sensor. When the earphone is in the right ear, the sensor will face your ear, thus recognizing which ear it's in. When it's in the left ear, the sensor will face away from the ear and into the open air, and will play sound accordingly.

A skin conductor sensor is also provided, changing the earphones from stereo to mono when one earphone is pulled out (for those, "Sorry, what?" moments). This sort of technology could even be tinkered with further, allowing the earphones themselves to pause and play accordingly when in and out of an ear.

The group will present their findings and product in the Intelligent User Interface conference at the end of the onth in Lisbon. Hopefully we'll see this product actually come out to market, just to save the me 3 seconds or so it takes to figure out which earphone is which. Anything for the sake convenience, right?

Japan Science and Technology Agency, newscientist.com