The days of having to shout over the noise at a restaurant may be over, thanks to a new digital noise-cancelling technology designed together by Meyer Sound and former Phish manager-turned-restauranteur, John Paluska. Utilising a combination of speakers, microphones, iPads, sound-dampening materials, and human ears, the staff at Comal can make the restaurant as loud or as quiet as they like.
In a nutshell, the San Francisco Chronicle says that the system controls sound reverberation levels, meaning one can fill a space with ambient noise if things are too quiet, or they can dampen down volume if things are too loud, so that people can easily converse while eating.
Much of the technology is disguised as art around the restaurant. For example, paintings and prints on the wall are actually made of sound-absorbing cloth. Speakers are made to blend in with the decor. And air ducts are lined with fiberglass. And then there's the tech itself.
What makes Comal's different is that when it's combined with Meyer's Constellation system - a program that captures the room's sounds and is able to leak them back into the space - the operator is able to control the level.
To do this, Germain installed a total of 123 speakers, subwoofers and microphones around the restaurant. The microphones pick up sound and send it to a computer where it's digitally processed and regurgitated on command. Paluska does it all from an iPad as he walks around the restaurant. He can also set up some areas to get more reverberation than others. Currently, he has it so that the bar area in the front is buzzier than the dining space in the back. But from everywhere in the restaurant, he said, patrons are able to carry on a comfortable conversation.
Whoa. Depending on the size of the space, restaurants wanting to implement this technology can expect to pony up anywhere between £7,000 and £70,000. Silence is golden, but it ain't cheap. [SF Gate via Co.Design]