Headphones with active noise cancelling are a useful way to tune out unwanted noises, but what if you instead wanted to silence unwanted sounds at the source? Say you’re on a sensitive phone call, or you’re unleashing a tirade of expletives while gaming? There’s a device for that too, although it doesn’t look quite as comfortable to wear as headphones.
Depending on how you spend your free time, the mutalk, from a company called Shiftall (which belongs to Panasonic), either looks like a miniature virtual reality headset or a sadomasochism accessory—but it’s neither.
Unlike VR headsets, which strap to the head and cover a user’s eyes, the mutalk straps to the head and sits over the user’s mouth. Inside the mutalk is a microphone and Bluetooth hardware which picks up the user’s voice and transmits it wirelessly to other devices like a smartphone or a gaming console. What differentiates it from other wireless microphones is that the mutalk traps and contains all of the sounds coming out of the user’s mouth, or at least most of them, as it’s promised to reduce the intensity of high-frequency sounds (voices) by about 30-decibels.
There’s no denying it looks absurd, but if you want to have a private phone conversation with someone and can’t actually find somewhere private to have it, it might have some utility. The mutalk automatically detects when it’s being worn and starts broadcasting over Bluetooth, so your conversation will be hush-hush even while hundreds of eyes stare at you in bewilderment.
Although initially revealed earlier this year along with a handful of other accessories designed to improve VR experiences, the mutalk still isn’t officially available yet, but is expected to sell for around $140 when it finally is.