Amazon is working on a new kind of noise-canceling headphones that can actively listen for distinct sounds and stop the noise-canceling functions of the headphones when necessary.
The Seattle-based company was awarded a patent recently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, in which Amazon proposes that the headphones will watch out for and analyze certain trigger words, phrases and even sounds. Once it recognizes those sounds, the headphones will temporarily stop its noise-canceling function allowing the user to hear sounds from the outside world again.
Amazon, with its Echo platform, has reportedly already done extensive work with voice recognition. The patent states Amazon’s software engineers Benjamin Scott and Mark Rafn as inventors. Scott’s work experience with Amazon Echo’s voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa reportedly suggests that the company hopes to improve user experience with Alexa while working on the headphones.
But, Amazon isn’t the first company trying its hand at technology with active hearing. New York-based startup Doppler Labs has been working on active listening technology, calling their Here earbuds “remote control for your ears.”
On its Kickstarter page, the company claims that the Here earbuds would “give you control of any and all live listening experiences: Suppress the jet engine on an airplane. Reduce a baby crying. Boost the bass at a club … Enhance your senses and personalize every listening experience.”
Doppler Labs CEO Noah Kraft reportedly believes that audio is the “next great frontier for computing.” He said that he didn’t know if Amazon was working on incorporating Alexa to its headphones but added that it would be “the logical next step.”