Shows how much thinking "out of the box" goes on in top engineering circles today...
Why are you surprised? NASA spent millions to develop a pen that could write in space... the Russians used a pencil. Sometimes people look for a really complicated solution instead of going for something cheap and cheerful that gets-the-job-done.
I think he's looking for a solution to his inability to hear things (including his wife).
I would find NOT hearing the wife/girlfriend/whatever to be a significant advantage
Half a billion for reinventing the wheel? I mean, we have USB for a long time already, how hard can it be to reimplement it in military harware?
Quite hard. This is stuff that has to work in space, so it has to work all the time and for usually a longer timespan than originally intended... its not like back on the surface where if your cable/hub/whatever goes futz you can simply get a replacement from the local store and swap it.