End of R and L on headphones in sight -

Japanese researchers have emerged from their smoke filled labs with a cure for one of the world's biggest problems, confusing the left and right ears on your MP3 player.

For years, users have had to look at their headphones to make sure that the L was in their left ear and the R was in the right and this was clearly proving too tricky.

Now a team of researchers at the Igarashi Design Interface Project have come up with an alternative.

Dubbed Universal Earphones, each one has a proximity sensor fixed to each earbud that knows which ear it has been inserted in, then adjusts the channel accordingly.

According to Digital Trends, it can also test to see if one ear belongs to another person, because sometimes people like share a headphone with a friend. If the ear pieces detect this, then they will broadcast a mono signal to each headset. The next idea it is to set them up so that when you pull them from your ears they will turn the music off.

There are no plans yet to make the Universal Earphones a commercial product, but since the sensors only cost a dollar a pair to make it would be surprising if someone didn't take them up on it.

Perhaps the world of science will then move on to something a little more pressing, like a slipper which can tells if it is on the left or right foot.