Noise-canceling headphones can use AI to ‘lock on’ to somebody when they speak

Noise cancelling headphonesNoise-canceling headphones are widespread nowadays, but scientists have found a way to take these devices to the next level — by creating headphones that can focus on one external sound source and block out all other noises.

The technology, called “Target Speech Hearing,” uses artificial intelligence (AI) to let the wearer face a speaker nearby and — after a delay of a couple of seconds — lock onto their voice. This lets the user hear only that specific audio source, retaining the signal even if the speaker moves around or turns away.

The technology comprises a small computer that can be embedded into a pair of commercial, off-the-shelf headphones, using signals from the headphones’ built-in microphone to select and identify a speaker’s voice. The scientists outlined the details in a paper published on May 11 in the journal Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.

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