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Jewish World Review July 9, 2002 / 29 Tamuz, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Hold on, my
molar's ringing | Stick it in your ear?

That's so 2001. Now you've got to stick it in your tooth.

Stick your cell phone, that is. Two guys in England have just unveiled the world's first audio tooth implant, aka, the tooth phone.

As if, my friend Jim noted, the British didn't have enough dental problems to begin with.

But anyway, the talking tooth, like the singing birthday candle, is upon us. "It's not science fiction, it's the stuff of science fact," said one of its inventors, James Auger, when he unveiled the prototype at the Royal College of Art in London a few weeks back. The device would be inserted, he explained, during "routine dental surgery."

Presumably this would be preceded by the routine six-hour wait for the dental-phone installer to show up.

Once the tiny transmitter was imbedded in your molar, you would flick a switch - or maybe just floss - and start hearing things.

For those of you already hearing things through your molars, consider this a party line.

Radio shows, phone solicitations, hangups, fax beeps, collection agencies, heavy breathing and, "The man says it may rain tomorrow, so take an umbrella and don't wear your nice shoes." Click. "Or your sandals!" Click. That is, all the delights of modern telecommunications could pop right into your head, day or night. And even as you're smiling and nodding - or yanking on your tongue, trying to figure out how to hang up on a filling - no one hears a sound but you.

That's right. The audio signals go directly to your inner ear through vibrations along the jawbone, thanks to a tiny electromagnet like the kind found in stereo speakers. And just like those speakers, it works only one way. You hear it, but it can't hear you.

This is an important fact to remember when, for instance, you're secretly receiving baseball play-by-play on a date. Do not jump up and shout, "Yes! Yes! Go all the way!" Or, worse, "Boo!" Although, "We will, we will rock you," could work.

Alas, the other problems looming for dental telepathy seem pretty obvious, including: What happens if you swallow it? ("Colon, we have a problem.") And what if you can't figure out how to tune the radio using the "simple" hand-held device?

I don't want my eyeballs blinking 12:00! 12:00! 12:00! the rest of my life just because I lost the manual.

Scariest of all is the potential for abuse. What if, say, a presidential candidate turned on his tooth phone just before a big debate and someone fed him all his lines? Why, he'd sound like he knew what he was talking about!

Worse, what if the thing got stuck and kept repeating weird words like, "Lock box"? This could throw off the entire election!

No, the molar phone is a terrible idea.

The molar cappuccino foamer, on the other hand, could be just what this country needs.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, New York Daily News