CES 2014: Audio-optical microphone

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?