Engineers have unveiled a cutting-edge creation known as an acoustic swarm. These intriguing robots, reminiscent of Roombas, maneuver around spaces, adeptly managing the segregation of audio from various simultaneous conversations in a single room. In essence, these devices could potentially allow one to dampen external chats, enabling a focus on the conversation at hand.
Although muting technologies have previously emerged in headphones and smart gadgets like the iPhone’s voice isolation feature, they primarily function by eliminating ambient noise for an individual.
Contrarily, this acoustic swarm aims to establish distinct audio zones around groups, regulating where sound from various discussions travels.
This approach is decidedly more intricate than merely filtering out ambient noise. The promotional footage shared by the creators suggests this technology could be invaluable in large, bustling gatherings, especially as its capabilities continue to evolve.
Remarkably, the acoustic swarm— a fitting title for this cluster of sound-centric robots—operates autonomously. Users simply set up the seven microphones that these robots leverage to demarcate an area as a “speech zone.” Once delineated, these robots continuously monitor and distinguish voices within this zone, even if they are in motion.
A primary motive behind this innovation is to offer users the ability to mute distractions, like overheard chatter, especially during vital discussions, video meetings, and the like. For a comprehensive understanding of this innovation, a detailed paper on its design is accessible in Nature Communications.
The inventors have rigorously tested the acoustic swarm in various realistic settings, such as kitchens and offices. In these trials, between three to five participants engaged in separate conversations. Notably, the robots lacked prior knowledge of or exposure to the voices they’d be tracking.
Conclusively, the study revealed that these robots could pinpoint voices with 90% accuracy, staying within a 1.6-foot radius of each other. Undoubtedly, the precision of this technology is commendable, sparking curiosity about its future potential.