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Cone of Silence – the smart power strip that will shield your conversations in any room


Researchers at MIT are working on a secure conversation masking system which will use a system of power strips and sensors to mask out confidential conversations in any room or open plan office environment. The Distributed Acoustic Conversation Shielding System can be set up in any room simply by plugging in special power strips which contain a PIR infrared sensor, a microphone and a small speaker.


Each person in a private conversation activates their personal sensor which ‘logs’ them into the conversation in the room or cubicle, and the sensors track their location as they wander around talking together. If someone without a sensor approaches, the PIR in a nearby power strip notices and starts beaming masking audio at them so they can’t hear the private chat.


The sensor is currently prototype huge, but it’s easy to imagine that one day they’ll be ID badge sized, and perhaps the power strips will be installed in every building rather as A/V connectors are at the moment for projectors and the like. Interesting concept, although we’re wondering how it would cope with a long distance snooper with a directional microphone. [Via]

 A method for shielding conversation comprises identifying a conversation to be shielded, detecting a potential eavesdropper, automatically determining masking sound types, locations and volume that will shield the conversation, directing emission of masking sounds from at least one audio output device in order to shield the conversation, including adjusting the masking sound type, location, and volume in response to movement of the conversation or the eavesdropper, and continuing to shield the conversation until it ends or the eavesdropper is no longer detected.

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