CES: Babble: Hi-Tech Cone of Silence


Remember the “Cone of Silence” from the old “Get Smart” TV sitcom? By using a huge clear glass tube which would lower from the ceiling at the right moment, secret agent Maxwell Smart (played by the late Don Adams) could have a private, if kooky-looking, conversation with another agent.

Babble, a 2006 version of the Cone of Silence without the glass tube or secret agents, turned a few heads when it was shown off Wednesday by Sonare Technologies at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The system looks like a conventional set of speakers, but offers a technology that can mask a person’s voice, thus allowing him to speak on the phone or to someone nearby without the danger of other people overhearing the conversation.

Once you train the system to recognize your voice and the way you speak, Babble generates what sounds like crowd noise, explained Mark Schurman, director of corporate external communications at Herman Miller Inc., the parent company of Sonare. The noise is attuned to your voice and has the effect of masking what you’re saying, thus thwarting eavesdroppers and allowing you to have a private discussion in an open area.

Babble won a “Best of Innovations” award at CES and was named a “Cherry Pick” for being one of the “newest and coolest” products at the show, as assessed by Marty Winston Public Relations.

Photo © 2006 Stadium Circle Features

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