According to a new poll we commissioned, most people admit in-laws at Christmas are an annoyance. * Talking is the most irritating habit, highlighted by 1 in 5 surveyed, followed by talking too loudly, and criticising their grown-up children’s parenting skills. Little wonder perhaps that the festive period is also a peak time for divorces.
But what if you could silence the sniping and grumbles using the same noise cancelling technology found in many headphones – but without the headphones? We believe you could choose what – and more importantly who – you listen to within the next five to 10 years.
“Position the microphones and loudspeakers in just the right place and noise-cancelling technology could enable you to choose whose voice you want to hear and whose you don’t,” said our sound expert Dr. Ralf Heinrichs. “It would work particularly well after Christmas lunch, when tempers can be a little frayed after too much food and alcohol, in armchairs which integrate the technology into wrap around headrests.”
Headphone-free noise cancelling technology already exists in our cars, with vehicles detecting undesirable engine noise using microphones placed above the driver and passengers’ heads, and broadcasting opposing sound waves through the audio system and amplifiers.
The next quantum jump in the technology is expected to be personalised audio zones. With microphones and amplifiers located in the headrest, occupants could make calls, listen to music, or stream TV, without disturbing anyone else – or having to wear headphones.
Positioning loudspeakers and microphones in the headrests would also enable those in the car to talk to other occupants more easily, so that parents in the driving seat could easily be heard by children in the back, without turning around and taking their eyes off the road. It would also be possible to reduce distracting noise, to better concentrate on driving.
“For drivers, this is all quite feasible in the next 5 to 10 years or so,” Heinrichs added. “And if it can be done in cars, it could certainly be done in the home too. We already use this tech to reduce engine noise. But in the future there is the potential for drivers and passengers to tune out their fellow travellers’ conversation, music, or phone calls.”
According to the poll, women are more likely than men to dread Christmas with the in-laws. And 1 in 3 of those surveyed said they would like to reduce the time spent together – or avoid a visit altogether. Avoidance tactics include washing up more than usual to stay out of the way, pretending to be ill and pretending to have to work.
* Ford commissioned survey of 5,015 people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K, by Opinion Matters in December 2016