back to article 'Bionic ear' can detect Wi-Fi, FM,GPS signals simultaneously

Boffins have developed a potential “universal radio receiver” that’s capable of detecting a whole range of wireless signals simultaneously. RFC_MIT A close-up of the RFC and antenna The Radio Frequency Cochlea (RFC) is an ultrabroad-band radiob embedded onto a 1.5 x 3mm silicon chip. It can receive mobile phone, GPS, FM …


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  1. Ryan 7


    They had RFC's for Ethernet back in the 70's!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Sloppy reporting?

    I thought the audio range for the human ear was around 30Hz to 20KHz? It would be a very impoverished ear that could only hear 100Hz to 10kHz.

  3. Ermie Mercer

    The cochlea

    enables you to detect frequencies from 16Hz to around 20,000Hz.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Look chaps, the Nokia "charge your battery from zero point energy" article was bad enough, but...

    Anyway, the source for this article appears to be

    It contains statements like: "The chip is faster than any human-designed radio-frequency spectrum analyzer and also operates at much lower power. " and ""The more I started to look at the ear, the more I realized it's like a super radio with 3,500 parallel channels."

    Those statements are perfectly reasonable. What's missing is the fact that ears and spectrum analysers are similar in some ways and different in others.

    Either way, this is not a precision tuned RF receiver of any kind, and as such is never likely to be usable for any meaningful kind of RF communications. It certainly can't distinguish between (let alone actually receive and meaningfully decode) "mobile phone, GPS, FM radio, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals" in the way the article implies

    Mind you as a cheap and cheerful wideband spectrum analyser it's kind of neat, and I wish it and its design team every success.

    It's sort of like the school physics lab gadgets with a rope with multiple pendulums(?) of different lengths on them, and as you waggle the rope you can make different pendulums resonate. Except this does it with RF.

  5. Oliver Mayes



    the human hear



    Long day is it?

  6. Nexox Enigma

    Ohhhh fun!

    Please put a usb interface on that and let me sniff broadband! That'd be so much more fun than scanning frequencies one at a time...

    Unfortunately until they get the equivalent sort of transmitter, this thing will only be halfway useful in bidirectional connections. That still leaves gps, weather sat images, tv/audio, and lots and lots of evesdropping... Neat.

  7. Tim Groven


    can it hear the sound of a tree falling in the forest if no one else is around?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Log Periodic

    A little surprised at the use of a large log periodic antenna. There are other designs, notably those based on fractal techniques that can deliver the required bandwidth and gain without anything approaching the same physical size.

  9. Roger Denholm

    @AC re Nokia

    misread it I suggest old chap.

    Nokia were trying to harvest the "electro-magnetic fog" around us.

    Finally a productive use for all those radars...

  10. Graham Marsden


    ... with an aerial that big, you'd have something even larger than that thing Uhura used to stick in her ear!

  11. Richard 74

    The people who complained

    About the wifi in classrooms, mobile phone signals etc would have a fit over this. 50x more powerful than mobile phones? That requires 50x more the uneducated and unproven RAGE!

  12. Allan George Dyer

    A title is required.

    I was expecting an article about a radio-receiving human ear replacement... really cool, but you'd be a bit noticeable with a couple of those aerials sticking out your ears!

  13. Steve Walker


    But does it go "doooo do do do doooo do do do" when you're using it ...

    If not massive fail :-(

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @ Tim Groven

    There's always someone in the forest to hear the tree falling, even if it's another tree!

    Get me cloak and staff...

  15. Number6

    Hearing Range

    You won't find many adults who can still hear 20kHz, the top end response drops off with age and loud noises such as discos. In the days of LCD TVs, you can't even use the whistle of the TV line output transformer to check you can still hear 15.625kHz.

  16. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Up

    frequency range

    of my human ear- at least last year- was 16Hz to ~ 22kHz though the frequency response is non-linear.

    Does this gadget have the extra sensitivity promised over its entire range, or is this extra gain only over, say, 2.3GHz to 2.5Ghz?

    Either way, sounds like an excellent design.

  17. William Towle

    100Hz to around 10,000Hz??

    As Paxman put it on University Challenge, "The human ear can hear frequencies in the range 20Hz to 20KHz. To the nearest whole number, how many octaves is that?" much easier to remember with the additional context. And, I thought, a nice way of disguising a simple(?ish) maths question.

  18. robert cooke

    @ Richard 74

    Richard, rage is exponentially stronger, especially if it's gone through the daily mail. a 50 times bigger antenna (that receives, not transmits, these are unimportant details) equates to 5000 times more rage.

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