TechBuzz: Amazon's Sometimes-Noise Canceled Headphones

Yes, that is the technical term I just thought up. You're welcome, Amazon.

The Guardian releases a story in which Amazon is planning on creating headphones that will selectively listen for certain sounds, words, and patterns. For example, your name, a doorbell, ect.

This is a technology that is semi-implemented with the Amazon Echo, where Alexa listens for the "Hey Alexa" and is alerted you're about to request something from "her."

Now, this may seem like a great idea - that you'll never be so far into your noise canceled state that you won't miss something if programmed correctly, but let me play Devil's advocate for a second and point out where this could potentially go wrong... Using Office Space gifs.

 

You're trying to ignore someone:

Whether it be on public transit or in your office, what if someone does know your name and you're trying to avoid them and they keep shouting your name? Wouldn't that cause the headphones to cut off, and then you'd have to have the acting credibility of Dame Judi Dench to get away from the awkward encounter? Or perhaps your boss wants you to come in on Saturday and maybe if you ignore them long enough, they'll just walk away and assume you're busy?

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If it's a learned behavior via technology, it may become used to cutting off at sounds you're trying to ignore because they happen frequently:

Sometimes when the HVAC system in office buildings kick on, it's a loud KNOCK that sounds like someone's going to come flying through the roof. What if the headphones pick this up as a similar sound to a knock or a doorknob and kick off every time this occurs? Or someone constantly hits the ancient fax machine in the corner every time there's a paper jam, and that becomes a learned noise? Much like texting where your phone finally allows you to swear (because DUCKING was never what we meant), couldn't these headphones potentially pick up learned behavior - AKA noises we don't want, and lower the volume of the audio?

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Not to mention cost:

The Amazon Echo - the tower with the personal assistant Alexa, as of right now costs $175. I'm sure something like a pair of headphones will cost about the same with this sort of technology. And with how easy headphones break, do you want to spend that much on that?

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All jokes aside, maybe we should just listen to some music the old fashioned way.

 

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Amy Cooper is a writer and pop, punk, and rock junkie, and on multiple occasions has been referred to as a “Walking iPod.”