CES 2014: Audio-optical microphone

CES 2014: Audio-optical microphone

Summary: A hybrid audio-optical microphone at CES promises to revolutionize noise rejection. Here's the idea.


In Israeli company, VocalZoom, is showing the new concept in noise rejecting and noise reducing microphones: a hybrid audio optical microphone. Vocal Zoom is looking for OEM partners to embed their technology into cell phones and other mobile devices.

The concept
Need technology combines a normal audio microphone with optical microphone that looks at the vibrations and activity from the users mouth, lips, cheeks and throat to determine which soundwaves the microphone is picking up emanate from the user. Using that information the microphone cleans up the audio and eliminates most extraneous noise.

Vocal zoom claims up to 40 DB of noise reduction using the technology. If true, this is extraordinary, and would make it possible to hold phone conversations in loud nightclubs and on construction sites.

The technology is built into a tiny cube that is less than a centimeter on each side. The company estimates the module could be sold, depending on configuration, for as little as a couple of dollars for a minimal configuration and as much is seven dollars for the full-on deluxe version.

The microphone uses the host system's processor to perform the noise reduction computations. The company estimates that the CPU overhead is similar to that of other, less effective, noise reduction techniques.

Here's a graphic, courtesy of VocalZoom:



The Storage Bits take
Not sure we need people adding more noise in already loud environments. But it would extend the usefulness of our devices.

The potential for improved audio surveillance is also a concern. But that isn't VocalZoom's problem. It's ours, as citizens of a democracy.

At a higher level VocalZoom shows once again the power of cheap computation to improve the functioning of common devices. Amazing technology at a mindblowing price.

Comments welcome, as always. How would this device change your use of mobile systems?

Topics: CES, Hardware, Mobility, Storage

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  • What?

    "...and would make it possible to hold phone conversations in loud nightclubs and on movies he construction sites."

    What the heck is a movies he construction sites? You do speak English, don't you? Clearly you can WRITE English. Too bad.
    • CES 2014: Audio-optical microphone

      Mr. Harris is an extremely intelligent person, who was caught up in thought as most intelligent people are, and was typing slower than his thought process. A common error. If you did not get the idea he was conveying, then yes you do have command of the English language, but little command of creative thought. He was giving extreme examples.

      Anyway, this will end the questions of; Where are you calling me from and Can you call me back when you get to your destination? These are examples of the lower end of the usage for this technology, for those who need a clue.
    • Dicto!

      I dictate many of my posts and sometimes miss errors in the transcription. Sorry!

      Rroseman, thanks for the kudos!

      R Harris
      • Early adopter?

        "I dictate many of my posts" - making you a perfect candidate for this device!

        Looking forward to your thoughts once this product hits the market.
  • This is about us not them

    Isn't this about you and I hearing each other better? The bad guys have their fancy gear that can resolve speech in the noisiest environments -- they can hear just fine now. Why should you and I not be able to hear each other?

    As for adding noise to an environment, have you ever been in a server room where the fans from 50 servers and other stuff is all making noise. You are trying to fix a problem and need to consult with someone in a different place -- may be across the country. It is nice to be able to hear each other so you can work on the problem together. Leaving the room to hear better is not an option.

    I think it has great potential.
  • highly doubtfull

    it might reduce non human noise, but that is already done by other technologies based on frequency range. Also having a camera pointing at your face all the time is not feasible. You'll be better off with a highly directional microphone.
    LlNUX Geek
    • Camera's in the mike.

      The camera is part of the microphone. If you're holding your phone to your ear, the camera's reading the audio-frequency vibrations of whichever part of your face it sees. This has potential.
      Small airplanes are so noisy, pilots adjust their headsets so the mike actually touches the lips. It would be nice to be able to back that off a bit.
      • no camera inside!

        it doesnt use a camera therfore much more robust
        Tal Bakish
    • it doesnt use camera and its aimed to remove other people voice

      that is why it is much better than other technologies
      Tal Bakish
  • English

    Gotta be another Chinese 'wanna be proof reader'. Most journalists today are illiterate as evidenced by their lack grammatical errors in everything they write.

    Robin....care to offer an explanation on/why your grammatical English is so very bad? ROFL
    • lol.. But it's ok for you since you are not a journalist..

      "evidenced by their lack grammatical errors"
      So is it ok that I assume that you are also Chinese and plausibly a wannabe?? LMFAO..
      Roland Kar-tet
  • One-way communication??

    Good article, however I think this system will be more useful for one-way communication specifically sound recording in it's immediacy. For example, acoustic imaging(sonar e.t.c), television and radio news crews e.t.c

    For two-way communication system like mobile phones been used in a noisy environment, it is a little questionable because even if the unwanted background noise does not affect the mic, what about the effects of the noise on the users perception of sound from the speakers or headphones??

    So this system ideally would work better in mobile phones if there is an accompanying, speaker system(pratically headphones) on the device that produces sound to the user clear enough to be perceived, in such a noisy environment.

    All in all, this is an amazing innovation, that holds so much potential applications, especially in one way communication, like basic sound recording.
    Roland Kar-tet