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WTF?! Every year, CES has at least one off-the-wall concept that never gets off the ground. We may have found this year's winner with a microphone that straps to your mouth like a muzzle. Enter the age of the cyber dork.
Virtual reality accessory startup Shiftfall unveiled a unique microphone that users can wear. Dubbed "Mutalk," the mic looks similar to a VR headset but for your mouth. Playing VR games already looks silly enough to those watching. Adding this crazy device takes it to another level of weirdness entirely.
As ridiculous as the Mutalk looks, it does have a sound, practical purpose. In designing the device, Shiftfall was looking for a way to simultaneously tackle suppressing ambient noise around the wearer while muting their voice to those nearby, hence the portmanteau Mutalk --- mute+talk.
Shiftfall says its device uses a Helmholtz resonator to achieve an average of -20db muffle of external and internal sounds. For higher frequencies, such as shouting, Mutalk can dampen noise levels by 30db. What this means for users is that their gaming chatter can be silenced so as not to disturb their loved ones, while their teammates can hear them clearly with ambient noises reduced or eliminated.
The Mutalk mic is not only for VR. Frankly, it does look somewhat less ridiculous when used unstrapped. The cup-like device is muted when placed with the mouthpiece facing upwards, such as on a desk. Raising the Mutalk and sealing it to the mouth allows users to chat privately without disturbing colleagues.
Shiftall says customers can also use Mutalk as a hands-free Bluetooth telephone headset with up to 10 hours of battery life per charge thanks to its 3.5mm earphone jack. However, I don't see many people picking this option over a decent set of noise-canceling wireless buds. It's way too cumbersome to be practical for that.
Even using it for heated online multiplayer gaming, it's hard to imagine many people wearing this thing instead of a regular Bluetooth headset. Muting your sometimes vulgar smack talk to those around you is an attractive feature, but the mic seems too bulky and uncomfortable for anyone to wear willingly.
Unlike many of the from-left-field concepts we've seen come out of CES, Mutalk appears to be the rare exception that will make it to market. Shiftall plans to launch the goofy device in the US this summer for $200 --- another sticking point that has me thinking it is doomed out of the gate. I guess we will see, but my money is that Mutalk is not likely to catch on with consumers.