Home Learn Noise-canceling headphones could let you choose and select the sounds you desire to hear

Noise-canceling headphones could let you choose and select the sounds you desire to hear

Noise-canceling headphones could let you choose and select the sounds you desire to hear

Future noise-canceling headphones could let users opt back in to certain sounds they’d prefer to hear, resembling babies crying, birds tweeting, or alarms ringing.

The technology that makes it possible, called semantic hearing, could pave the best way for smarter hearing aids and earphones, allowing the wearer to filter out some sounds while boosting others. 

The system, which remains to be in prototype, works by connecting off-the-shelf noise-canceling headphones to a smartphone app. The microphones embedded in these headphones, that are used to cancel out noise, are repurposed to also detect the sounds on the planet across the wearer. These sounds are then played back to a neural network, which is running on the smartphone; then certain sounds are boosted or suppressed in real time, depending on the user’s preferences. It was developed by researchers from the University of Washington, who presented the research on the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) last week.

The team trained the network on hundreds of audio samples from online data sets and sounds collected from various noisy environments. Then they taught it to acknowledge 20 on a regular basis sounds, resembling a thunderstorm, a rest room flushing, or glass breaking.

It was tested on nine participants, who wandered around offices, parks, and streets. The researchers found that their system performed well at muffling and boosting sounds, even in situations it hadn’t been trained for. Nevertheless, it struggled barely at separating human speech from background music, especially rap music.

Mimicking human ability

Researchers have long tried to resolve the “cocktail party problem”—that’s, to get a pc to give attention to a single voice in a crowded room, as humans are capable of do. This recent method represents a major step forward and demonstrates the technology’s potential, says Marc Delcroix, a senior research scientist at NTT Communication Science Laboratories, Kyoto, who studies speech enhancement and recognition and was not involved within the project. 

“This type of accomplishment may be very helpful for the sector,” he says. “Similar ideas have been around, especially in the sector of speech separation, but they’re the primary to propose an entire real-time binaural goal sound extraction system.”

“Noise-canceling headsets today have this capability where you may still play music even when the noise canceling is turned on,” says Shyam Gollakota, an assistant professor on the University of Washington, who worked on the project. “As an alternative of playing music, we’re playing back the actual sounds of interest from the environment, which we extracted from our machine-learning algorithms.”

Gollakota is happy by the technology’s potential for helping individuals with hearing loss, as hearing aids could be of limited use in noisy environments. “It’s a novel opportunity to create the long run of intelligent hearables through enhanced hearing,” he says.

The power to be more selective about what we are able to and may’t hear could also profit individuals who require focused listening for his or her job, resembling health-care, military, and engineering professionals, or for factory or construction employees who wish to protect their hearing while still with the ability to communicate.

Filtering out the world

This sort of system could for the primary time give us a level of control over the sounds that surround us—for higher or worse, says Mack Hagood, an associate professor of media and communication at Miami University in Ohio, and creator of , who didn’t work on the project.

“That is the dream—I’ve seen people fantasizing about this for a very long time,” he says. “We’re mainly attending to tick a box whether we would like to listen to those sounds or not, and there might be times where this narrowing of experience is absolutely useful—something we actually should do which may actually help promote higher communication.”

But every time we go for control and selection, we’re disregarding serendipity and completely satisfied accidents, he says. “We’re deciding upfront what we do and don’t wish to hear,” he adds. “And that doesn’t give us the chance to know whether we actually would have enjoyed hearing something.”


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