The future might be less noisy inside

What would happen if windows could cancel the sound from the exterior. Wouldn’t that be great?

NTU Singapore

View the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/science/windows-street-noise.html

A Singaporean PHD student has found how to lower the noise of the streets by 10 decibels by inserting an array of speakers on his window.

Why a window that lowers the loud noise of traffic on the street, with occasional dog barking, the helicopter browsing the skies or drunken people loudly talking at 2 o’clock AM?

Perhaps the answer is because our cars still are propelled with oil combustion engines that generate a lot of noise; or because in the cities have higher density of people and buildings, therefore generate more noise. Or perhaps is something cultural, southern Europeans tend to be louder than northern europeans. Or socio economical, council flat buildings are smaller and packed with more people than houses in the suburbs. In any case is a noise pollution problem that can affect your wellbeing.

While the principles behind this artefact seem promising there are few hiccups to pay attention to:

  1. The artefact can’t cancel abrupt noises like a car horn
  2. Larger speakers are needed for lower frequencies, that could potentially block the window view

Also it makes me wonder:

  1. Can this be used for your walls?
  2. Can this be used in sound studios to make it more sound proof?
  3. Could this speakers learn to cancel different sounds with AI?
  4. Are there more discreet speakers to be able to see through your window?

I currently can’t probably answer this questions. But I get excited thinking of potential solutions.

Imagine a future where people use noise cancellation technology in broader contexts and keep efforts to reduce noise pollution.

You wake up in this sunny 2030 morning to the sound of your alarm, a gentle forest nature sound simulation. Jump of the bed and look through the window. Look at your remote home status display. The noise outside is equivalent to a lawn mower. The apartment is so silent that a shower may feel like the loudest noise.

While applying shampoo to your hair, your thoughts find you imagining the latest story in the news about a murder that couldn’t be heard by the neighbours next door. That brings the case of the robbers that hacked a house of a wealthy couple to disguise any sound while they were sleep.

As you get dry, your partner wakes up. You are glad to have them in your hearing profile. You can’t understand how people used to be able to hear anything and anyone. Now you can just get to hear the people you accept in your social circle or temporarily for a transaction. Only in case of emergency, like a fire or an accident the audio aid allows you to hear more.

“It is a beautiful morning to go to the park” you say and your partner responds “I like the park, but not today”.

This is a scenario where the ability to cancel noise is very powerful and embedded to our life. It is probably a future I would hate to live at. However I wouldn’t mind cancelling some sounds during my commute.

I see the application of the technology working very good in these cases:

  • Premium stores in busy cities
  • Music studios
  • Jobs that require loud equipment to be operated by a person
  • Conditioning a space for the purpose of a relaxed activity

Let me know what you think.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store