There's an endless list of annoyances that make air travel unenjoyable, the least of which being the nonstop blaring airport announcements you have to endure while waiting for your flight. So hats off to a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who've developed a filter that can make speech blasted over a loudspeaker easier to understand over background noise, but also quieter.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the researchers carried out several tests to determine what parts of spoken words were most easily distinguishable in a noisy environment. For example, if you've ever listened to the murmur of a crowd, you'll tend to pick up on hard consonants or the hisses of the letter 's' more easily than soft vowels. And using this data, the researchers were able to develop custom software which further enhances those more recognizable sounds in real-time, making it easier for announcements and other broadcasts to be understood by people in crowded areas.
The technique has the added benefit of actually allowing a broadcasted message to be quieter, by up to five decibels. So those repetitive airport announcements and warnings could be a little less grinding in the near future, and you won't have to crank your GPS' voice to hear it over the roar of your car. [The University of Edinburgh via Gizmag]