Updated at noon PST Tuesday with more detailed information on how Ecotones works.
You know those blaring horns and screeching tires outside your office window? Listen again; you're actually hearing the soothing sounds of a babbling brook.
Silicon Valley start-up Adaptive Sound Technologies is out with its first product, Ecotones. It's an adaptive noise-masking machine that blends with the audio in your specific environment to create a relaxing individually crafted soundscape called a "SoundStory."
In the event a loud truck suddenly came by, for example, Ecotones would instantly and automatically raise the volume level and insert a custom sound, such as a loud crashing wave or a seal barking, to help mask the change in the background noise. When the truck passed, Ecotones would resume the quiet ocean surf background. Because it reacts dynamically, Ecotones only uses enough volume to cover the offending noise.
Primary audio tracks are mixed with hundreds of individual secondary sounds in a pseudo-random way to create audio that's less repetitive than that of the typical sound-dimming machine or CD. The company says its audio backgrounds are so vivid and realistic (listen to a few of them yourself below) you'll forget the unit's in the room. Until your boss starts yelling again, that is.
You can use Ecotones to mask noise from loud neighbors, traffic, aircraft, annoying machinery, or any other manner of cacophony. Personally, I'd like to see which SoundStory it creates from the chorus of reporters and editors yelling across the room on a busy day here at CNET News. Would we morph into the Distant Thunderstorm (listen to MP3), Nature's Meadow (listen to MP3), or Crackling Fireplace (listen to MP3)? You can hear even clearer versions of those and other sounds on this page.
Ecotones uses a patented system of digital signal processing techniques to analyze background sound and dynamically generate the SoundStories. Adaptive sound processors use 32-bit technology to execute an algorithm needed to respond to background sounds within a tenth of a second.
The unit measures a compact 6.125 inches x 7.5 inches x 5.5 inches and has a frequency range of 90Hz to 20,000Hz. A headphone jack enables private listening as well as connection to an external stereo or audio amplifier. Also included is an adjustable sleep timer. All that peace and quiet will cost you, though--$299.95 at Hammacher Schlemmer.