Following a stream of incidents where teenagers or cyclists have been hit by a car or truck because they were listening to music with headphones on, London based company Essency has released Awareness! The Headphone App. The philosophy behind the app is to allow users to listen to music, whilst remaining street safe and street smart. When listening to music (at any desired volume) a user will be able to hear important sounds, like a siren, shout or directed conversation. The application utilizes the inbuilt microphone on the iPhone and iPod Touch to record outside sounds and by recognizing the street level sound it will then “bleed” all louder noises through the headphones.

At first you might think that the application could be potentially annoying always filtering in nearby conversations and unnecessary street sounds, but the user does have the option to manually adjust the microphone level and thus filter the pitch of sounds being heard through the headphones. The app allows control what types of sounds you wish to be interrupted by, so you can hear a car horn immediately or train platform announcements without having to remove their headphones, and even through the loudest music levels.

Awareness was created to offer more street safety and it's a worthy goal. I’m sure it will be on the shopping list of many teenage parents, but it could potentially offer a false sense of security... and in a place like New York, it might mean you can never listen to your music.

Essency's Awareness! The Headphone App is now available from the Apple App Store for US$4.99 and is compatible with iOS4, iPhone4 or 3GS, iPod touch 4 and iPod touch 3 with headset but will not work on iPhone 3G or with wireless or Bluetooth headsets.