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Inside a 'sound bubble' ... do you hear what I hear?

I once owned a T-shirt that stated “The Voices In My Head Argue Amongst Themselves” ... the argument often being about whether it should be “Amongst” or “Among.”

(I realize that you are shocked SHOCKED! that there is gambling going on in here.)

When packing for a move, I was tasked with deciding which T-shirts would make the trip and which would find their way to a clothing donation site.

“Voices In My Head” lost out by a 3-2 vote.

It’s too bad, in retrospect, because if there’s one thing on which they’d all agree it’s that there was no room left for interlopers — such as the voices that can make themselves heard in your head (and by no one else) with the advanced technological marvel known as “sound beaming.”

(Yes, I agree: Sometimes I do wish I was making this stuff up.)

The production team at Noveto Systems has unveiled the ominously named SoundBeamer 1.0, which creates for its owner a personal “bubble” through which they can hear — without the need for headphone or earbuds — the noise emanating from music downloads, computer games, movies and even car navigation systems.

I don’t know about you, but I thought this technology was developed in the 1960s by the production team of Brooks & Henry and was called The Cone of Silence.

(I said I don’t know about you, but I thought this technology was developed in the 1960s by the production team of Brooks & Henry and was called The Cone of Silence.)

Imagine the chaos borne from what Noveto calls the “practical uses” of the SoundBeamer 1.0 — the ability to play games in your cubicle without disturbing coworkers; or having backup singers at your disposal as you drive to work; or, hypothetically, just sitting silently in your living room with a blank stare as you listen to Tchaikovsky or Run-D.M.C. ... unable to hear your significant other task you with downsizing your T-shirt collection.

A story from The Associated Press describes the process this way: “The technology uses a 3D sensing module and locates and tracks the ear position sending audio via ultrasonic waves to create sound pockets by the user’s ears.”

(Uhh, yeah me neither.)

And, Noveto says, the beam that creates a pocket inside of your bubble will follow your head movements — as long as you stay within range.

“You don’t need to tell the device where you are,” says product manager Ayana Wallwater. “It’s personally for you — it follows you; it plays what you want inside your head.”

“This, she adds, “is what we dream of.”

(Speaking for myself, such as it were, four out of the five of my inner vocies dream of getting a good night’s sleep usually because the fifth one tosses and turns all night.)

Now, this sort of advancement isn’t new — real-life examples run the gamut from military grade sonic weaponry to Siri and Alexa to directional loudspeakers to the Wimer Hum.

And, of course, popular culture has played with the concept for as long as there’s been science fiction.

Still, despite its potential benefit of blocking the chorus from “Wagon Wheel” from repeating ad nauseam in our heads, is the development of the SoundBeamer 1.0 something we should be celebrating?

It’s hard enough now to get the attention of coworkers imprisoned by their headphones and earbuds, or tapping away on hand-held devices.

And while I certainly understand the desire to tune out the cascade of cacophonous chattering from an invasion of the family members, aren’t we already so isolated in our ability to communicate that being in our own private sound pocket would only make things worse?

(OK maybe that’s not the best example with Thanksgiving dinner on the horizon.)

I mean, if we give high-tech gizmos the ability to control what we hear what’s next?

Christophe Ramstein, the CEO of Noveto who would ultimately green-light the even more omnious sounding SoundBeamer 2.0, 3.0 and so on, gave a typically cryptic CEO-like response when asked to explain the concept.

“The brain,” he said, “doesn’t understand what it doesn’t know.”

(Uhh, yeah me neither.)

We already live in a society where otherwise regular folks believe 5G technology kills birds, caused the COVID-19 pandemic and is just a front for Bill Gates to implant microchips in our brains.

Those who pledge allegiance to such conspiracy theories or kneel at the temple of cable news propagandists will look at “sound bubbles” as just another step toward mind control.

(Let me repeat that for those who might have missed the irony.)

Those who pledge allegiance to such conspiracy theories or kneel at the temple of cable news propagandists will look at “sound bubbles” as just another step toward mind control.

I’m not so sure the prevention of being rocked like a wagon wheel is enough of an incentive to flip that switch — even if Ramstein promises a “smaller, sexier” version of the SoundBeamer in time for the 2021 holiday shopping season.

In the Oscar-winning 2013 movie “Her,” a sheltered, soon-to-be-divorced man named Theodore — who writes letters for those who are unable to convey their feelings — falls in love with Samantha, the voice of an artificially intelligent operating system ... who, it turns out, has 8,316 other Theodores in her life ... including another 641 with whom she has become intimate.

(Don’t worry, they turn the lights out for that scene.)

In a moment of self-realization, Theodore wonders aloud about allowing himself to be seduced and persuaded by a disembodied voice.

“I can understand,” Samantha says, “how the limited perspective of an unartificial mind might perceive it that way

“You’ll get used to it.”

(By a vote of 5-0, I certainly hope not.)

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin thinks about things such as this at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com so you don’t have to.

Robert Galvin