This technology could allow you to 'mute' someone in the same room as you

In the future, it may be easier to ignore certain conversations right around you. — Photography PeopleImages/Getty Images/AFP Relaxnews

Researchers have developed a microphone system capable of isolating and tracking different voices in the same room. This technology should make it possible to "mute" one or more people in the near future.

Currently there are a host of headphones and earphones on the market offering noise reduction features. Something many owners find useful for blocking out surrounding noises and enjoying the music or podcast being listened to. Now imagine a technology that can isolate certain conversations and mute others in one and the same room. This is what researchers at the University of Washington set out to achieve.

The challenge of the project consisted of locating, isolating and then modulating each vocal sound according to its source within a particularly noisy room. It consists of a series of small microphones distributed around the room. Using algorithms, each one is tasked with covering a speech zone and tracking its various sources of speech, moving automatically. These little acoustic robots are connected to each other by Bluetooth and are equipped with a motor and wheels. This robotic "acoustic swarm" can track the positions of several speakers in a room and separate their words out from the rest of the soundscape.

So far, the team has tested these robots in offices, living rooms and kitchens with groups of three to five people. The researchers now plan to build robots capable of moving around the entire room, without being restricted to tables, as is currently the case. Eventually, the goal is to be able to emit sounds to create active and mute zones, so that some conversations can be heard perfectly and others not. – AFP Relaxnews

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