Another step forward in wearable tech. Yes, it looks like wearables are continuing to move from the crazy vision of LED jeans or mood music cardigans of two years ago to stuff we might actually want to buy.
Reports today say that Amazon might be entering the headphone sector with a product that allows you to cancel the noise of the world around you while also keeping you alert to danger/people who are speaking to you.
The e-tail giant gained a patent last month for noise-cancelling headphones that block noise as they’re supposed to, but that also respond to particular external sounds. That could mean somebody calling your name (which would be a real boon in offices where loads of people wear headphones most of the day and end up being frantically waved at when you need to ask them a question).
It could also mean the sound of a baby crying, a doorbell, or a car horn, another good idea given the bizarre practice of a few pedestrians and cyclists who like to shut themselves off from the world even though they’re trying to negotiate busy roads.
So what does the patent-filing say? “Noise-canceling headphones typically permit consuming audio in noise-intensive or otherwise noise-hostile environments, such as a busy street or a vehicle having a noisy cabin. As such, the operator of the noise-canceling headphones tends to be at least acoustically isolated from the environment, and therefore, including the operator in a discussion with another party or otherwise attracting the operator’s attention can be difficult or otherwise inconvenient.”
They’d work by temporarily cancelling noise from the outside world on recognition of a keyword or sound so your music wouldn’t actually switch off at the relevant sound but you’d be back in the ‘real world’ while listening to it.
It looks like the patent could be connected to the existing voice-controlled speaker Amazon Echo and the Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant. The Guardian today said the patent filing lists Amazon software engineers Benjamin Scott and Mark Rafn as the inventors and Scott is known to work on Alexa.
Whether we’ll actually see a product from this patent or whether it’s more about further developing Alexa is open to question. But there are others working on active listening earphones/headphones such as New York startup Doppler Labs. We’ll just have to wait and see.