We’ve all been there: you’re trying to enjoy an intimate meal for two, but the birthday party on the next table is shouting at each other so loudly you can’t hear yourself think, let alone know what the person you’re dining with is talking about. Or you’re having a breakfast meeting, but it’s hard to concentrate because the couple three tables over are having too fascinating a discussion not to eavesdrop. It’s probably best for everyone’s sake that restaurants of the future could have their sound environments manipulated so that we’re not privy to other people’s conversations.
As Gizmodo spotted in The New Yorker, Oliveto, an Italian restaurant in California, has mics, speakers, and sound-absorbing panels built into the walls to create the perfect soundscape. These record the noise in the room, modify it, and send it out at just the right level to make the room seem friendly but not overwhelming. The system’s called Constellation and was designed by John and Helen Meyer from Meyer Sound Laboratories.
Sound resonates in two stages: the first, when we pick up most of the detail, and a later, blurrier reverberation. Constellation cuts out the first impression, so all people hear is the noise of others talking, but not the words they’re using. This gives the sense of being in a room with a great atmosphere, without being distracted by other people’s conversations. Sounds good to me.