Spider senses may as of yet remain fictional, but the U.S. military has apparently invented a form of super-hearing.
Newly developed TCAPS, the Tactical Communication and Protective System, costs $2,000 and gives its users significantly enhanced auditory capability, according to Popular Mechanics. The pair of earbuds filters down loud noises such as explosions and other battlefield noise, while simultaneously allowing lower-volume sounds such as gunfire or voices.
The system can even be configured to amplify quieter noises — say, the footsteps of enemy soldiers attempting to flank a defensive position, or the rustling of foliage as someone sneaks up with a knife.
According to a video posted by the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier, the system is designed to strike a balance between situational awareness, necessary in any tactical scenario, and protecting soldiers from long-term ear damage from loud noises on the battlefield. (As of 2008, hearing loss was the number one occupational disability associated with service in U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 70,000 of 1.3 million former soldiers suffering from tinnitus.) The system also works as an earpiece for communications systems, allowing it to work as a headset.
While TCAPS is an explicitly military system, it's not hard to imagine similar equipment might one day be employed in civilian applications to replace older technology like noise-dampening headphones or protective earmuffs in loud workplaces.
Some 20,000 of the devices are already deployed with U.S. forces, reported Engadget, though it remains unlikely TCAPS will form part of the standard infantry kit anytime soon given its $2,000 cost — a significant number to add to the $17,500 average cost of equipping grunts today.