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Topic-blocking headphones

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When you want to do some work (or even just hear yourself think) while surrounded by friends or colleagues having a loud and distracting conversation that you aren't interested in, you might put on noise-canceling headphones. The problem with doing that is that when the topic of conversation changes to one you want to participate in, you're still deaf to it. You could ask the people to notify you when they change topics, but they could easily forget.

The solution? New Topic-Blocking Headphones from Approximate Industries! They're noise-canceling headphones, but with a big difference: Using the processing power of your computer or phone to run voice recognition and natural language processing software, they can keep an ear on the conversation, and automatically turn off the noise canceling when the topic changes! Then, if you're interested in the new topic, you can participate. If you aren't, just press the "block current topic" button and go back to work.

"But won't I miss the first few things said on the new topic?" I hear you asking. We have a solution for that. You can choose to automatically review these utterances on your computer or phone screen, or have them recorded and replayed at a higher speed to catch you up. But even without using these features, you can usually still jump into the conversation early enough.

Additional features:

• Multicolor LED on top to let people know when you're in and out of the conversation.

• Automatic disablement of noise canceling when you're addressed by name.

• Always-on noise-canceling mode, like regular noise-canceling headphones.

• Noisy environment mode cancels noise but lets all speech through. Useful on airplanes.

• Optionally learns similarity of topics and what you are and aren't interested in, based on which ones you manually block, and then automatically blocks what you won't want to hear.

• Can display current topic onscreen to allay fears of missing out on something you want to hear.

• Can record audio and transcripts of conversations for reference. (Sounds creepy, but think of how many microphones are already around you all day, under other people's control.)

• Can automatically pause/play your music or podcast when you enter/leave the conversation.


43/327 [2018-04-14]

notexactly, Apr 15 2018

word filter Prior art. NC headphones that block specific words. [notexactly, Apr 15 2018]

Selective Noise Cancellation Prior art. Cancels noise from specific sources that you attach microphones to. [notexactly, Apr 15 2018]

Voice-Transmitter S...or Noise-Cancellers Prior art (baked). NC headphones with a switch to allow outside sound in. [notexactly, Apr 15 2018]

Human Media Lab Attentive Headphones (2004) https://www.humanmedialab.org/photos
Prior art. They "convey external sound upon eye contact". Looks like they've got eye contact detectors on top so that they pass audio when someone else is looking at you. (Sixth photo in the "attentive user interfaces (2002-2006)" section) [notexactly, Mar 17 2019, last modified Mar 28 2019]


       Not yet, the chat bots haven't had enough conversations. I can imagine it though.   

       Piece meal is, in most part, not that good for the human psyche. How would one learn that subtle topic change behaviour?
wjt, Apr 16 2018

       Baked by the brain & evolution many millennia ago, probably longer, if I had to guess I'd say it was sometime around that period before we were.. well, (just) before we were.   

       You know how you can focus in on the conversation those two girls you fancy are having three tables away in a crowded pub & just sort of fade out all the other chatter?   

       Well it's that.   

       When you mother, wife or significant other tunes you out because your boring them & they want to think about something important instead (like what filling to put in a sandwich) & you only realize later they didn't hear a word you said..   

       That's it too.   

       If you can't do it & appear to be lacking this (comes free with the basic model) skill set I'm afraid you are a defective model, write off to the production company & ask for a refund.
Skewed, Apr 16 2018

       Sorry, did you say something just then ?
8th of 7, Apr 16 2018

       See, even [8th] still retains the ability, just as well really, all that poking around inside the casing with non-manufacturer approved alterations, he invalidated his warranty years ago..   

       he'd have no chance at a refund.
Skewed, Apr 16 2018

       I like it. You could even have a conversation starter lookup function to redirect smalltalk. (software detects four weather comments in a row == small talk) your headphones say "content: volunteer at community" and "segue "you guys are so smart, have you tried community volunteering?"   

       Perhaps some software effort could write "win friends an influence people" segues though, perhaps prompting the listener to say "Bob I dig the sunshine, we could all bring more sunshine to our local community with volunteering!"   

       Then multiple people could have their headphones on during a normal conversation and talk to cues, creating a much better conversation.
beanangel, Apr 16 2018

       I like what you said there [IT].   

       But just go the whole hog & have it do the actual walking as well as the actual talking, what was that story where people ended up using robots do all their obligatory consumerism that they didn't want to do for them (anyone)? * Give everyone an android facsimile to go out & interact with everyone else's then social contract upheld they can just stay home & get on with playing online games or whatever it is they really want to do.   

       * may have been the original short story autofac was based on but I'm not sure.
Skewed, Apr 17 2018


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