WTF?! Every year, CES presents at least one non-standard concept that will never get off the ground. We may have found this year’s winner with a microphone that attaches to his mouth like a muzzle. Enter the age of the cyber jerk.
Virtual reality accessories startup Shiftfall has introduced a unique microphone that users can wear. The microphone, dubbed “Mutalk,” is similar to a VR headset, but for your mouth. Playing virtual games already looks silly enough for those who are watching. Adding this crazy device takes it completely to a new level of weirdness.
As ridiculous as Mutalk may look, it does have a reasonable practical purpose. When developing the device, Shiftfall was looking for a way to simultaneously suppress ambient noise around the user and mute his voice for those who are nearby, hence the name Mutalk — mute + talk.
Shiftfall claims that their device uses a Helmholtz resonator, which provides muffling of external and internal sounds by an average of -20 dB. For higher frequencies, such as screaming, Mutalk can reduce the noise level by 30 dB. For users, this means that their in-game chatter can be turned off so as not to disturb their loved ones, while their teammates can hear them clearly, and ambient noises are reduced or eliminated.
The Mutalk microphone is not only designed for virtual reality. To be honest, it looks a little less ridiculous when used without a belt. The bowl-shaped device turns off if it is placed with the mouthpiece up, for example, on a table. By lifting Mutalk and pressing it to their mouth, users can conduct a confidential chat without disturbing colleagues.
Shiftall says customers can also use Mutalk as a hands-free Bluetooth phone headset, providing up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack. However, I don’t see many people choosing this option over a decent set of noise-canceling wireless headphones. It’s too cumbersome to be practical for that.
Even using it for hot multiplayer online games, it’s hard to imagine many people wearing this thing instead of a regular Bluetooth headset. Turning off the sound of your sometimes vulgar chatter with others is an attractive feature, but the microphone seems too bulky and uncomfortable for anyone who wants to wear it.
Unlike many of the non-standard concepts we saw at CES, Mutalk seems to be a rare exception that will hit the market. Shiftall plans to release the wacky device in the US this summer at a price of $200 — another stumbling block that makes me think it’s doomed. I think we’ll see, but I think Mutalk is unlikely to gain popularity with consumers.