How to Turn Down the Volume on the Entire World

December 2, 2013

Quieter living through chemistry.

2D_Noise_Final_Stefanich_130621_Page_15-1110x682-976x600There’s nothing worse than trying to concentrate on a very important project (like, say, a blog post) while struggling to tune out loud neighbors. If you live or work in an area with heavy traffic or other types of noise pollution, you’ve likely found yourself wishing you could grab a remote control and turn down the volume on the world outside your window.

Unfortunately, modern science has yet to provide us with such technology, but industrial designer Rudolf Stefanich has concocted the next best thing. The Sono looks like a futuristic smoke detector, but it can actually reduce the irritation caused by a noisy environment. It counteracts ambient noise by vibrating the glass in windows. This essentially turns them into large noise-cancelling speakers. Stefanich’s prototype was proven to reduce sounds in the 30-80 dB range. That might not silence a dog barking next door but it could reduce more distant noises, like a garbage truck clattering down the street.

Stefanich hopes to one day construct a much more sophisticated version, in which users could pick and choose which noises they want to hear and which ones they want to block. For example, the Sono could let in the pleasant chirps of a songbird, but turn down the annoying wails of a car alarm.

Stefanich built the prototype while studying at the University of Vienna. It earned the designer a nomination for the James Dyson Award, a prestigious recognition that could have granted him the additional funding he needs for further development. Alas, the Sono lost to the Titan Arm, a robotic appendage created by a group of engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania. We’ll have to make do with noise-cancelling headphones and white noise machines for a while longer.

Want more weird inventions? Check out Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Weird Inventions.