November 7, 2016
Featured by the New York Times.
On Thursday, microphones mounted outside two buildings in Manhattan went live.
Bright yellow signs that say “Recording Underway” announced their arrival.
But these devices are not eavesdropping on your conversations.
A group of researchers from New York University and Ohio State University are training the microphones to recognize jackhammers, idling engines and street music, using technology originally developed to identify the flight calls of migrating birds. Think of it as the Shazam, the smartphone app that can identify songs, of urban sounds.
Snippets of audio, about 10 seconds each, will be collected during random intervals over the course of about a year to capture seasonal notes, like air-conditioners and snowplows. The cacophony will be labeled and categorized using a machine-listening engine called UrbanEars. The sensors will eventually be smart enough to identify hundreds of sonic irritants reverberating across the city.