Gadgets for humans

Amazon patents noise-canceling headphones that let you hear the important stuff around you

Noise-canceling headphones are great for tuning out the din around you when you just want to focus on listening to music or enjoy some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, they also mute sounds that you might need to hear – like someone calling your name.

Amazon has a pretty cool idea for solving that problem. Earlier this month, it was granted a patent for headphones that not only cancel out noise, but also listen for specific sounds or phrases (like ‘Hey Ben’) and respond by automatically turning off the feature so the user can hear sound from their surroundings.

That should make it safer for use in noisy environments where you might actually need to pay attention to the occasional alert, such as a construction site or an industrial facility.

In addition, the headphones can also listen for phrases to turn noise canceling back on again, so the user can resume their listening experience hands-free.

It’s certainly an interesting concept and could make for a drastic improvement over traditional noise-canceling headphones. Hopefully, this innovation will feature in a real-life product sometime in the near future.


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Published August 1, 2016 — 08:38 UTC

Suspending noise cancellation using keyword spotting on USPTO