There's a constant roar of noise inside of the huge convention halls that house CES — from blaring speaker demoes, to beeping gadgets, to the hundreds and hundreds of people around you at any point talking about technology. But, for one moment inside of the convention hall here at the Sands, almost all of that went silent.
I'd just taken a seat inside of Selentium's Comfort-Shell — what it refers to as a literal cone of silence. Shell is a better way of referring to it, because it basically looks like a giant, white version of those spiky shells that Lakitu throws in the original Mario. There are four microphones hidden on the outside of the shell, listening to the sound around it. That noise is then inverted and played back to the inside of the shell to cancel everything out, resulting in a nice, quiet little bubble, even amid a noisy crowd.
Noise cancellation is, of course, not a brand new technology, but Selentium claims that it can do it better than everyone else. It can't make the world perfectly silent (yet, at least), but Selentium says that it's improving what it takes to get close: quickly analyzing what the microphones pick up, transforming that noise, and then playing it back. The Comfort-Shell also predicts what noise is about to happen in an attempt to speed up the process.
For some reason, the Shell also plays hold music
You can still hear some noise while the Shell is over your head, but most of it sounds distant and far off. The Shell itself also makes a loud humming noise that anyone standing nearby it can hear, and some of that comes through inside the shell. Selentium was also playing hold music inside the shell while I tried it out. Fortunately, Selentium says that part is optional.
While the Shell is meant to reduce most of the noise around you, it intentionally avoids cutting out voices. When someone spoke to me, it came through loud and clear, without any sign that the Shell had tried to silence the speaker. It also isn't muting noises within the Shell, which allows you to make phone calls or listen to music in a bit more quiet.
Selentium's vision is that airports, convention centers, malls, and other large public places might buy a few of these for people to use when they need a few minutes away from the din of the crowd. It intends to get them onto the market within the next six to nine months, but it hasn't set a price on them yet. If you see one, know this: you'll look pretty goofy with a giant Koopa shell over your head, but it is pretty nice in there.