Even if your lip-reading skills are first-rate (mine are absolute rubbish) you’ll still struggle to ever comfortably watch sport on TV in a pub or club if you can’t hear the commentary when the sound is either turned off because not everyone wants to listen, or it’s the audio of another sports channel you’re not watching, or the ambient noise of the venue is drowning out every word. Australian University of Technology student Tim McBride knows first-hand how frustrating it can be to sit down to watch your sporting heroes strut their stuff and not be able to closely follow the game. He invented The 13th Man (an extra, extra man in the game of cricket) that is a personal wireless speaker unit that sits atop your table and lets you listen to your favorite game. McBride’s invention is another shortlisted submission in our ongoing series of the Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Award 2010.

The 13th Man gives users the ability to tune into the game of their choice and control the volume of the commentary. McBride says the speaker is designed to bounce the sound off an absorptive base that is used to localize the noise produced by each unit.

“This reduces the overall noise levels in the venue by minimizing reflective sound waves,” he says in his submission. He believes the 13th Man can also be branded, offering targeted advertising opportunities for pub sponsors and an additional revenue stream for the venue.

McBride says many pubs show multiple sports at the same time, yet they select one game and turn its volume up for the whole pub to hear.

“This blankets the venue with sound and increases the overall noise level of the pub with people needing to talk louder over the sound of the TV. The 13th Man not only offers users choice and control over how they view sport, but also reduces noise levels, making for a more enjoyable atmosphere.”

He says there are no products available on the market that directly compete with the 13th Man, thus offering huge worldwide potential for the product. While the technology used in this product isn’t world-first, the combination of wireless audio, a unique, easy to use interface and sound localization through controlling reflected sound waves is.

“Using these existing technologies also ensures that the product is both reliable and cost-effective, which is crucial to its success,” says McBride.

Because the speaker needs to be waterproof to protect it from spilled drinks, the design minimizes gaps and openings, such as sound holes. This actually benefits the downward-facing speaker which bounces sound off a dampening pad and helps localize the noise the speaker produces.

Units will come with a docking/charging station for venue operators to use and a master volume control will ensure that each table keeps its volume to an acceptable level.

The 13th Man is one of more than 300 entries in the Australian Design Awards - James Dyson Awards held annually. Approximately 30 designs are shortlisted to the final round of global judging that takes place later in the year.