MIT Conversation Shielding Like Cone Of Silence

Distributed acoustic conversation shielding is the subject of a new patent by MIT Media Lab researchers. The device is designed to protect the privacy of spontaneous workplace conversations with sound from distributed loudspeakers. The units could be disguised as power strips.


(Conversation shielding 'power strip' [pdf])

This usage scenario is taken from the earlier paper Distributed Acoustic Conversation Shielding: An Application of a Smart Transducer Network by Yasuhiro Ono*, Joshua Lifton, Mark Feldmeier, Joseph A. Paradiso.

An office worker happened to meet one of his colleagues, a team member of a project, in the open space of their office area, and they started to chat about their project. He noticed that the content of the conversation was getting rather confidential to people outside their team. He pushes a button on his mobile device to trigger the acoustic conversation shielding application, at which point, various speakers surrounding them start to emit a masking sound to prevent others from overhearing the conversation. When the conversation is over, he pushes the button again to stop the masking.

Here's a prototype version of a conversation shielding wearable controller.


(Conversation shielding wearable controller [pdf])

They actually tested this idea with a network of 12 units, about two meters apart, with some success. The masking sounds decreased the signal-to-noise ratio by 5-10 dB at each location.

Science fiction readers (and television watchers) find this idea familiar. Most of us recall the cone of silence made famous in the Sixties television show Get Smart. Take a look at this commercial which shows the cone of silence in use.


(Cone of silence in Get Smart)

Perhaps more specifically, Frank Herbert used the term and the basic idea and the term cone of silence in his 1958 short story Cease Fire.

SF readers also recall the Fenton silencer from Arthur C. Clarke's 1957 story Silence Please.

It consisted of a microphone, a special amplifier and a pair of loud speakers. Any sound that happened to be about was picked up by the mike, amplified and inverted so it was exactly out of phase with the original noise. Then it was pumped out of the speakers, the original wave and the new one cancelled out, and the net result was silence.
(Read more about Clarke's Fenton silencer)

A year earlier, Robert Heinlein wrote about a hush corner in his 1956 novel Double Star.

Sometimes such facilities in public places like hotels are not all that they might be; the sound waves fail to cancel out completely. But the Eisenhower is a luxury house and in this case, at least, the equipment worked perfectly; I could see their lips move but I could hear no sound.

As far as I know, the earliest use of the cone of silence term and idea occurred in a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled "Barrier of Silence."

From Distributed Acoustic Conversation Shielding: An Application of a Smart Transducer Network [pdf] and Distributed Acoustic Conversation Shielding System [patent application]; via New Scientist.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/10/2009)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )

Related News Stories - (" Engineering ")

ODYSSEUS Solar-Powered Stratospheric Plane Flies Forever
'The planes flew continuously, twenty-four hours a day...' - EB White, 1950.

Phil Nuyttnn's City Under The Sea
''Under the lower roof there was no water, but a clear and luminous atmosphere...' - Andre Laurie, 1895.

Stick-On Tape Speakers, As Predicted By Bruce Sterling
Flexible tape speakers, someday.

Has Climate Change Already Been Solved By Aliens?
'I had explained," said Nessus, "that our civilisation was dying in its own waste heat.' - Larry Niven, 1970.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Wound Healing With Wearable Nanogenerators
'... forcing the energy transfer which allowed him to ... erase the other internal-external damage.'

Flying Dragon Robot Transforms In Mid-Air
Terrific prototype video.

Negative Matter Fluid Theorized In New Paper
'Of course, being negative matter, when you push it, it comes toward you..'

Grow Structures Upon Planetfall - Myco-Architecture
'They'll also start pulling in gases and liquids from the local atmosphere...'

MXene Hydrogel Skin For Robots Flexes And Senses
'The plastex swam and whirled like boiling toothpaste...'

EXPLORER, The First Total-Body Scanner
'The object is built up of an infinite series of plane layers, at the focus of the ray...'

UK Police AI To Stop Criminals Before They Strike
'... the computing mechanisms that studied and restructured the incoming material.'

Sonitus Audio Interface Positioned Beyond The Noise
'... an instrument having relatively small bit pieces adapted to be gripped between the teeth.'

Volvo's Self-Driving Mining Trucks
'A procession of automatic ore carts was racing over the bleak slag'

Audi Pop.Up Autonomous Electric Flying Car
'The cab was an egg-shaped bubble of light metals and plastics...'

Music Not Impossible (MNI) Vibrotactile Wearable Experience
Don't you want to experience the 'feely' effects?

Chinese Face Recognition Mistakes Bus Ad For Jaywalker
'... the imprint of her image on the telephoto cell.'

A Look Back At Apollo's Emergency Escape Vehicle
'A simple mechanism... it drove the iron ball through space like a ship.'

InMotion Glide 3 Electric Unicycle For The Last Mile
'...gyro-stabilized on a single wheel.'

China's Social Credit System - A Facebook-1984 Mashup
'Prestige, face, mana, repute, glory: the Sirenese word is strakh.'

Musk Declares Tesla Supercharger Capacity Will Double By Next Year
'Recharge the batteries... in almost every town and village...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.