Researchers from the University of Illinois Coordinated Science Lab are in the process of developing a noise canceling platform that doesn’t require the use of headphones. Standard NC headphones and earbuds work by using microphones to detect incoming sounds and use DSPs (Digital Signal Processors) to process those sounds and emit anti-noise signals to cancel them out. No matter how good those headphones are, some noise still gets through, and they can become uncomfortable to wear after a few hours.
CSL’s MUTE solution is to utilize IoT networks with noise cancellation tech, as it offers a faster signal cancellation. Headphones use internal microphones, so when noise is detected, the DSP has little time to process them and generate a response. Instead of internal microphones, the researchers place an external mic in an environment that detects sound, and transmits it wirelessly to an earpiece. Since wireless data is sent faster than sound, the earpiece can generate a canceling signal before the noise reaches the wearer.
The MUTE platform uses a wireless IoT relay that can be positioned anywhere within range of the receiver, such as a door or wall, anywhere where noise is an issue. The receiver uses a microphone, anti-noise speaker and DSP (the same tech found in standard NC headphones), to cancel that noise. While the prototype is in a crude form at this point, the envisioned receiver will feature a behind-the-ear frame with a hollow cylindrical speaker worn in the ear, leaving the ear canal unplugged.
Like with all technology, nothing is ever perfect, and the same is true for MUTE, as the IoT microphone needs to be positioned between the noise source and the receiver. If noise is coming from many directions, then there have to be multiple devices placed in a single environment. That said, testing showed the MUTE platform to be superior to leading NC headphones on the market and was rated better by the participants.