by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition
Will future cars have individual sound zones for each passenger? Scientists are exploring an algorithm that would let each passenger listen to their own audio without disturbing others and without using headphones or earbuds.
So far the algorithm only lowers sound in the 100 to 1,000 Hertz frequency range. Audio from music or speech carries significant sound energy above 1,000 Hz, so the technology is not yet feasible. It seems the tech doesn’t entirely cut sound anyway, and I suspect any low drone from adjacent sound zones would be annoying or distracting for some people.
I worry this technology replaces personal interactions while driving in cars. I’ve had many important conversations while driving, especially with my kids. I’ve shared a love of music with everyone singing loud to our favourite tunes. I have to say this technology doesn’t entirely excite me.
There are some positive aspects to personal sound zones. An article in Science News for Students discusses how this tech would stop the risk of noise damage from personal listening to audio at unsafe volumes.
This article originally linked to an Explainer page that included out-of-date information on noise risk. Kudos to Science News for Students for updating their How Loud is Too Loud page when I brought the problems to their attention.