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This startup is bringing a ‘voice frequency absorber’ to CES 2024

CES has always been a place where weird, out-of-the-box gadgets make their debut, and this year’s show is no exception.

Skyteda startup based in Toulouse, France, founded by former Airbus Vice President Stéphane Hersen and acoustic engineer Frank Simon, is bringing what looks like a pair of human snouts at CES 2024. Dubbed the «Mobility Privacy Mask» and the «Hybrid Silent Mask,» the face-worn gear is designed to «absorb voice frequencies» in noisy environments such as plains, trains and shared rides, Hersen says.

«Skyted’s solution is ideal for commuters, business executives and travelers anywhere,» Hersen said in a press release. «No matter how busy or public the location, I can now talk in silence with the confidence that no one nearby can hear their conversation.»

Skyted

Image credits: Skyted

There’s no getting around the fact that belted masks aren’t exactly indiscreet or fashionable… unless Dyson zone tickled your fancy. And at about half a pound (220 grams), they’re not exactly light, either. But Hersen argues that the trade-offs are worth it for the privacy the masks (supposedly) allow.

Skyted’s masks are made from a sound-deadening material that Simon developed while working at ONERA, the French aerospace laboratory — originally for jet engines. These sync (wired or wirelessly) to a smartphone app that offers a toggle switch to route speech through the phone’s speaker – reducing the need to remove the mask. The app also calculates the wearer’s «voice level» and shows insights into their «perceptibility» and «intelligibility,» sort of like a Fitbit for speech.

The masks muffle 80% of the wearer’s voice, Skyted claims, while boosting volume in voice and video calls by isolating outside noise. And they have been tested with «leading» (albeit unnamed) transport providers, supported by ONERA and the European Space Agency.

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To this journalist, on the other hand, the masks look like a blank shot. Skyted’s marketing suggests this.

Skyted advertises on its website… strange in-app features such as a «voice awareness» mode that allows parents to silence their noisy mask-wearing children while playing video games. (It’s not entirely clear how this works; maybe active noise cancellation?) Skyted, in fact, touts the masks as a more «immersive» way to play games and even has a section of its website dedicated to defense and military applications. Skyted claims to have worked with the French military and the Defense Innovation Agency, France’s military research and development arm, to develop a custom mask exclusively for submariners and special forces.

Skyted

Image credits: Skyted

Skyted also appears to be testing some sort of medical mask — which, given all the other sectors it tracks, suggests a lack of focus. A scattered launch — coupled with an eye-popping starting price of $299 low-tech competition — does not bode well for Skyted’s the upcoming Kickstarter.

On the other hand, last year Skyted managed to secure around one million dollars in initial funding, according to data from Crunchbase. There may be a bigger market for face-mounted, sound-absorbing wearables than I thought.

Read more about CES 2024 on TechCrunch

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