Will I finally be better equipped to deal with the hordes of the Terminally Oblivious?
You know what I mean. You’re having a conversation and suddenly ambulances, fire engines, gear-shifting 18-wheelers or Harley-riding opera singers go by, rattling your teeth for a prolonged time. Unmindful of your body language, your chat partner keeps droning away, without increasing his volume, refining his mushy diction or waiting for the noise to abate.
A startup company called Doppler Labs may have the answer, with a product called Here. It’s an oversized ear bud that filters and alters the sounds of the real world, for instance sharpening conversation while drowning out annoyances such as barking dogs, snoring partners or wailing babies.
Doppler predicts that within 10 years “everyone” will be wearing the buds 24-7. One selling point is that they are fairly inconspicuous and don’t look geeky. But do we really want geeks walking among us undetected, like ticking time bombs? Inevitably they’ll be sitting in a darkened, crowded movie theater, stand up, pull out a pistol and scream at the unsuspecting patrons, “This hand-crafted plastic model is exactly like the real pistol J.R.R. Tolkien’s podiatrist ALMOST purchased at a flea market in September of 1953.”
Doppler is initially aiming its product at live music lovers. By adjusting volume, bass and effects such as reverb, concert-goers can enjoy an optimized experience from any location in the venue. An optimized AUDITORY experience, that is; there will still be “haves” and “have nots” in other aspects of music appreciation. (“Wow! With Here, I could hear your nose bleeding up there in the cheap seats! And cut back on the burritos, man.”)
Who am I kidding? Music aficionados will doubtless be ecstatic. (“It’s so intimate! I felt as if every F-word and N-word was directed right at me!”)
Later versions of Here (or its imitators) may offer automated language translation, ostensibly making foreign language courses obsolete. But do we really need more temptations to give up self-reliance and let our brains atrophy? Granted, the translators will bring people together; when the ear buds malfunction during a billion-dollar business deal, people from different cultures will develop universal gestures for what the inventors can DO with their piece of junk.
If we can tap into frequencies that only dogs can hear, perhaps someday we’ll hear that little voice that cajoles, “Yes, yes, your master bought that white suit just to match your muddy paw prints!”
In a coup for old hippies, we may someday be able to “hear” colors. (“Black may be beautiful, but it SOUNDS like Gilbert Gottfried and Fran Drescher’s love child!”)
Before long we’ll have premium ear buds that activate a tiny defibrillator at the first sound of “By the way, my mother is coming to stay for a month.”
Whether you’re ready or not, devices such as Here will revolutionize where people are willing to work and buy real estate, as folks learn to tune out unpleasant parts of the environment. (“I was able to move closer to my job by purchasing a lovely 2-story near the railroad tracks. I simply had to tune out the roaring freight trains. All was well, until I was surprised by a tornado THAT SOUNDED JUST LIKE A FREIGHT TRAIN! Oh, well - it isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Say, is that a Harley-Davidson in the distance?”)
Danny welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”