When subway, train stations, and airports get crammed full of people, it’s impossible to hear loudspeaker announcements over all the noise. So researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute developed a new system that listens for when a venue gets loud, and automatically adjusts announcements so they’re always audible.
The new ADAPT DRC software, created by the Project Group Hearing, Speech, and Audio Technology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT, uses microphones strategically placed around a venue to constantly monitor the ambient noise. When the din gets especially loud, the system doesn’t just boost the volume of loudspeaker announcements because while that can make announcements easier to hear over the noise, it doesn’t necessarily make them easier to understand.
Speakers tend to distort what they’re broadcasting when pushed too loud, so the ADAPT DRC software goes one step further by enhancing what’s being said by boosting specific pitches and frequencies in speech that are easily muffled or misheard with a lot of surrounding noise. For example, high-frequency consonant sounds like “P”, “T”, and “K” are often spoken quickly, but are key to understanding what’s being said.
The ADAPT DRC analyzes, detects, and boosts those frequencies specifically, so even with the roar of a subway train rolling into a station, it’s still easy to discern what a station attendant is barking over the loudspeaker. The new system hasn’t been implemented anywhere yet, but the Fraunhofer Institute says it’s ready to go, and only requires the installation of a few microphones in a venue for it to be effective.
Contact the author at andrewL@gizmodo.com.