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NWC @ CES: Babble on in Privacy with New Phone Conversation Scrambler

For anyone who needs to speak privately and confidentially on the phone, from HR personnel to mid-level managers, today's modern offices and open floor plans are usually problematic. Generally, office facilities is assigned to sort things out, but no longer. Herman Miller, of office furniture fame, presented an electronic solution at CES in Las Vegas. Developed by Sonare Technologies, a division of Herman Miller, Babble is a confidentiality product for those who need to keep phone conversations private.

If you were a fan of the old "Get Smart" television series, you'll remember the 'cone-of-silence' gag. Instead of creating silence, however, Babble makes conversations unintelligible by modulating and randomizing a person's voice. It rearranges the smallest elements of speech and phonemes and then broadcasts them, along with unintelligible noise, through loudspeakers. To anyone passing by, the noise sounds like chatter or the background mumblings of a group of people conversing. The volume of the gibberish rises and lowers in response to the level of the phone conversation.

I observed and listened to a demo of this new product at the show. As I moved in close to the person making the phone call inside the loudspeakers, I could hear the conversation. But I had to be nearly a foot away from the person's mouth to clearly hear what he was saying. As I pulled back, the speaker noise created by Babble masked his voice, making the conversation unintelligible.

Babble in Action

Watch as Bruce Boardman participates in a demonstration of Babble's capabilities
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