This Week in Sound: Voiceprint Lawsuits, Breath of a Blackbird

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 4, 2022, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (

As always, if you find sonic news of interest, please share it with me, and (except with the most widespread of news items) I’ll credit you should I mention it here.

“A flexible, wearable, fabric microphone”: that’s the topic of recent Nature coverage. It’s a report on MIT professor Yoel Fink’s “fabric ‘ear.'” Not only can one fiber of Fink’s ear technology capture sound, two fibers can “be used to identify the direction that a sound came from.” The potential deployment of this technology is still in the works: “Yoel thinks that a wearable fabric mic that sits directly on the body opens up a wealth of potential applications, from helping people with hearing aids to focus their listening on a specific speaker in a noisy room to providing long-term, comfortable monitoring of heart or respiratory function, even monitoring a baby in the womb.” ➔
(Thanks, Rich Pettus!)

According to the National Law Review, “voice recognition data — another growing area of potential litigation risk.”

Opinions are coming in on the Zone, a Dyson product that combines air purification with Bluetooth headphones. The Verge: “we’ll have to see whether customers will be willing to embrace this extremely odd-looking product.” Wired: “either a bold new world of personal pollution protection or an economic and PR disaster for Dyson. Frankly, we’re not sure which it will be.” The Guardian: “sure to draw quizzical looks.” Designboom: “bizarre combo.” Nerdist: “you don’t want to look like a Benzite from Star Trek.” ➔,,,

“The world’s cities must take on the cacophony of noise pollution” — a report from the Financial Times: “Good measures have been applied already in urban areas across the world: from London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone, ‘noise radar’ in Paris and Berlin’s new cycle lanes on wide roads to Egypt’s national plan to combat noise and Pakistan’s 10bn trees ‘tsunami’.” ➔,

“It’s a regular beanie hat with a reinforced flap around the ears wherein two materials have been combined to make it sound-absorbent and noise-blocking.” That’s the Little Snooze, a children’s hat. ➔

“PetSmart required warehouses workers to use the technology to create an individual voiceprint, unique to each person,” according to a putative class action lawsuit. “Workers then carried out orders sent from a central computer by interacting with voice recognition software, which responded based on their voiceprint. The voiceprints, stored in a file containing the worker’s name and employee number, could have been subject to hacking and put the workers at risk for identity theft, according to the lawsuit.” ➔

“The project aims to understand whether artificial motor sounds on electric scooters can improve audible detectability of these vehicles by people with visual impairments while avoiding contributing additional noise pollution to our cities.” Read about the collaboration between the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the University of Salford, and Dott, a European mobility operator. ➔

You must click through to see the breath of a red-wing blackbird in frigid air while it

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