What is active noise cancellation, and how it is different from isolation

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Published: June 15, 2020 8:04 AM

Think about headphones and earphones. Most such devices come with a design where they create suction around your ear or within the ear so that you can barely hear any of the noise from surroundings.

active noise cancellation, Google Meet, Google servers, samsung Galaxy buds, AI power, ambient noiseGoogle is trying to use its computational and AI power to reduce ambient noises. (Representational image)

In a bid to outdo its competitors, Google Meet-the video conferencing app of Google-announced a new feature for the service. Google will now perform active noise cancellation while using the service. So, if you have activated the feature, Google’s servers will process the sound and make sure that ambient noises from surrounding get cancelled. This is also something that Samsung had announced when it released its new Galaxy buds.

What is active noise cancellation, and how is it different from isolation?

Think about headphones and earphones. Most such devices come with a design where they create suction around your ear or within the ear so that you can barely hear any of the noise from surroundings. This process is called isolation. While such earphones are cheap, they also tend to hurt a lot. On the other hand, active noise cancellation works on a very different principle; instead of blocking sounds, it uses a mic to accommodate those sounds and then creates a wave which cancels the ambient noise. Cancellation depends on the chip used or the processing power of the server, and, of course, the ability of microphones to catch ambient noise. The more the microphones, and the more sensitive they are, the better the noise cancellation.

So, how is this done in real-time?

Google is trying to use its computational and AI power to reduce ambient noises. While doing this for songs is one thing, in real-time, it becomes that much more difficult. There is a few millisecond difference. But as computational power increases, even this would decrease. Besides, Dolby has been trying to incorporate this processing in the laptops. Once that is done, things would become clearer.

What is the future?

Noise cancellation is just the tip of the iceberg. Once AI gets involved, such technologies can find varied uses. For instance, one can make sure that only the sound of one specific person is heard and other gets muffled.

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