‘The ability to identify these tiny acoustical changes in the skull makes possible the differentiation between the voice of the caller – the signal that interests us – and the background noises that come from outside the body.’Thanks to an optical microphone developed by researchers at Haifa’s Technion Institute of Technology, cellphone background noise can be eliminated from phone conversations – even if you’re speaking with a baby crying or in the middle of a nosiy nightclub.
The microphone was developed by Professor Motti Segev from the faculty of physics, along with Tzvi Katz and Dr. Rami Aharoni. The optical microphone eliminates distracting noises by monitoring acoustic signals from the human head.
“The basic concept of the microphone, which is called ONFM,” is based on the optical identification of acoustic changes in the skull or other parts of the body while the user is speaking,” Segev said. “When we speak, we hear ourselves from the transfer of sound waves in the bones of the head. The ability to identify these tiny acoustical changes in the skull makes possible the differentiation between the voice of the caller – the signal that interests us – and the background noises that come from outside the body.”
On the basis of this differentiation, Segev said, one can filter out the background noises much more successfully than with existing noise filters.
A working model showed that it filtered out almost all background noises, leaving only one per 1,000. In principle, the inventors said, it can be improved even more. The microphone also eliminates sudden noises that cannot be filtered out by systems based on computer programs.
Applications for two of the patents have been filed for operating a device a few millimeters from the user’s mouth and for a device that can remain several meters away. The remote-control device makes possible additional applications, such as improving the use of hearing aids.
According to the researchers, the microphone makes it much easier to understand the caller’s words in a noisy environment, and since the surrounding sounds are not heard on the other end, the caller does not leave any hints about where he is.
Among the many advantages: speaking from home without a child’s crying being heard; working from a bustling café; speaking from a movie theater (possibly only an Israeli application). It could also have applications for use on the battlefield for communications, in factories, at sporting events or concerts.
Segev and his team have registered a patent on the device, and three patents have been applied for in the US.