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ChatterBlocker — Block Distracting Speech at Work 204

An anonymous reader writes "ChatterBlocker is a PC program that uses digital audio technology to neutralize the sound of speech and other distractions so you can stay focused at work or elsewhere." Personally I just crank the tunes. Anyone know if this actually works or if it's a scam? Or is it just a white noise generator?
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ChatterBlocker — Block Distracting Speech at Work

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  • Re:Earplugs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:17AM (#16536304) Homepage

    In his first novel World of Ptaavs (now part of the Three Books of Known Space [] omnibus) Larry Niven suggested that over the next couple of centuries people would evolve to be able to more powerfully focus on relevant conversation and filter out noise. The growing population, he suggested, would result in all public spaces being much more full of chatter than now. People would be driven mad if they didn't adapt.

    It seems a better solution than earplugs, which would block out everything, even useful sound. But the idea is fanciful, for instead of biological or psychological progress, it seems that these sort of technological advances as described in the article will serve to keep the world around us quiet.

  • Article? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rbochan ( 827946 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @10:26AM (#16536348) Homepage
    hmmm... only item on 'news' page: "10/20/06 ChatterBlocker 1.0 was finally released!"

  • by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:00AM (#16536572) Homepage
    Even with headphones, you need a real-time operating system because the response must be generated within a few dozen microseconds. Off the shelf Linux or, -gasps-, MS Windows, cannot deliver this, no matter how fancy the software.

    I work in pro audio. My audio interface is set to a latency of 10ms, and can be set even lower. Extremely low latency is necessary for professional work with audio. Given the relatively simple phase-inversion necessary to create a noise-cancellation effect, there's absolutely no reason Windows, OSX, or Linux couldn't do the job just as well as an $80 set of headphones. However, with Windows, the standard-issue Soundblaster or onboard sound chip would probably have to be replaced with something that supports ASIO drivers. You would also need to place the microphone right up next to your head, which could be awkward.
  • Not a scam, but.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:04AM (#16536610) Homepage Journal
    ...when I'm irratated at work, even silence can be distracting.

    And there are those who have just the right irratating, cutting thru anything (even head phones blasting) voice sound, change in volume, starts to say something five different ways before they stumble it out, etc..that you just have to know ain't nobody going to custom create sounds to drown these unique voices out.

    But this is not a scam as I'm sure it is capable of smoothing over common chatter. I think what helps me to believe this is that I saw some short clip on TV about movie sound effects. Ever notice that background murmer of people talking in a scene where there are lots of people but you really only hear the actors in focus? This is only one example, but there is at least one company that does nothing but deal with teh talent that is hired for these background effects.

    My reasoning is that if you can create such chatter that is not so distracting, you probably have a good idea as to what is distracting and that should make for a good start at address the problem,

    Now if you check out the site, you'll see they are far from being new to the sound industry.

    It may not work as well as you like against those uniquly distracting voices but for alot of offices it probably would help.

    As to mind focusing sounds, this is also been researched. I myself sometimes listed to Yani to help life my mental state and I read something where during the playing of some mathmatically/logically correct classical piece (bach or batoveen sp?) it is difficult to lie.

    I suppose the trick is to take the distracting noice and add such pleasing noise to the mmix that blends the distraction into the acceptable.

    I've noticed some music works better than other at drowning out specific office noise.

    Someone saw me with head phones on and ask: Rocking Out? I said: No! Drowning out....
  • Re:Earplugs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by parc ( 25467 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:13AM (#16536668)
    I have the prior generation of these earplug/headphones. A couple things I've learned:

    1) You have to stick them WAY inside your ears to get the full effect. It feals like you're poking your brain stem.
    2) They work incredibly well.
    3) You'll suddenly discover how crappy your home and car speakers are, and how REALLY crappy normal headphones are.

    If you're really serious, get a good set of musician ear-moldings. They'll fit the E2C earphones, IIRC, and they're much more comfortable from what I'm told.
  • by slim ( 1652 ) <> on Sunday October 22, 2006 @11:50AM (#16536934) Homepage
    With music playing, I can't concentrate fully on anything else (I wish I'd realised this *before* graduating from university!)

    What I'd need to improve my concentration in a chattery environment, I guess is a constant background noise which is ignorable yet chatter blends into.

    But then, since I choose not to work from home because the chatter is condusive to productivity, I don't need it.
  • by cloricus ( 691063 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @12:51PM (#16537382)
    I'm interested in these results Larry suggested. My friends and I for the last year have been working on a skill, one that we wondered if it was possible while bored in a lecture one day, where as usual you filter all noise that is irrelevant (the venues in our cases include lecture theaters and filled refectories) and touch type on an assignment or other wise engaging task with the added difficulty of holding a detailed conversation on another topic with some one else. In the beginning it was rather impossible though surprisingly enough it is rather doable as we have found with only a little practice and then a lot of usage to get the words per minute ratio up.

    Laptops allow you to be anywhere and we know we can filter noise and information a lot better than is currently done (and with less effort than at least I expected) plus the human brain is perfect for multitasking. I wonder if this sort of thing is indeed the future of at least geekdom, maybe of office space in general?
  • Unwanted information (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @01:43PM (#16537714) Journal
    You know, this might actually help (at least to some degree). My wife and I went and saw Notting Hill (guess which one of us got to pick the movie that day) at the theater. I don't know why (we were the only ones in the whole theater) but they had subtitles turned on (English movie with English subtitles - obviously for hearing-impaired). For the next 90 minutes it took all my willpower to keep my eyes from shooting to the bottom of the screen and reading those blasted subtitles. It was really strange. My wife mentioned it too - she couldn't keep herself from reading them.

    Speech is very much the same thing. If we can hear conversations, even just partial bits here and there, our brains will immediately work at translating the speech into thought.

    So on one hand, I can understand how simply covering those frequencies with sounds that don't sound like speech could alleviate some distraction (assuming the sound it admits isn't blatantly annoying). During that movie if the subtitled text was replaced by white noise / static, I at least wouldn't have been trying to make sense of the extraneous information.

    Dan East
  • Re:pure snakeoil (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:46PM (#16538132)
    > Pretty cool right? In version 2.0 upcoming:
    > - reminder to blink ...

    Sometimes when I'm in deep hack I forget to blink. To prevent my eyes from drying and shriveling up I added this to my xsession:

    ( while true ; do xmessage -timeout 3 -center " blink "; sleep 600; done ) &

    The timeout means it distracts you, as well as removing itself. As a bonus, focus is restored to your app after 3 seconds.

    When I see that message, I just blink for a bit, and think about getting my nipples pierced or similar eyewatering thoughts.

    Yeah, it sounds stupid, but it works well for me.
  • by hankwang ( 413283 ) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @06:22PM (#16539626) Homepage

    It seems that nobody in this thread understands the problems with noise cancellation. Of course it is trivial to build an analog circuit that substracts the signal from a small microphone from the signal that goes to the headphone speaker. Unfortunately, that won't work. The problem is that a headphone typically has a very complicated frequency response resulting from the resonances in de closed volume between the eardrum and the headphone loudspeaker, and the attempts of the headphone designer to compensate for these resonances. (see for example here []). The net effect is that the impulse response of the headphone/ear system with respect to electrical signals going into the speaker is about 1.5 ms. That means that even if you have full knowledge of the interaction of the headphone with a particular ear, you need to know what sound wave to cancel 1.5 milliseconds in advance. In this time, the sound can travel about 50 cm, which is obviously more than the 1-2 cm between the headphone speaker and the microphone.

    So to make an effective noise-cancellating headphone, you have to compromise on sound quality in order to give it a quicker impulse response. Then you will have to accept that you will never be able to effectively cancel out high frequencies (above 1 kHz or so). Finally, you will still need to build some kind of lowpass filter such that you won't substract the higher frequencies with the wrong phase and thus increase the noise rather than decrease it. With all these constraints, you can be happy if you achieve 10 dB reduction.

  • Re:Earplugs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lessthan ( 977374 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @07:51PM (#16540450)
    The chance of madness isn't a selection pressure?

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito