For a short and quiet moment I thought I was safe from more absurdity technology that went too far at CES 2023. Then the Mutalk came in and turned my world upside down.
The Mutalk is a wireless microphone that covers your entire mouth. Why would you need such a device? According to creator Shiftall, it “makes it difficult for others to hear your voice and at the same time makes it difficult for ambient noise to enter the microphone.” But the fact that most video conferencing services and platforms like Discord filter out background noise through software makes me question the value of this feature.
According to the company, you keep the Mutalk in front of your mouth during a meeting or conversation and people around don’t hear what you’re saying. It uses a technique called the Helmholtz resonator principle that can damp sound down to about -30 decibels, which is probably like screaming into a pillow, which is something I wanted to do as soon as I saw a picture of this thing.
The mouth cushion for the Mutalk has a removable moisture-absorbing cushion that “catches saliva and splashes” [shudder] and can be washed in water. It also has a 3.5mm mini plug, so you can connect a smartphone or tablet to it. I admit there are real use cases for the Mutalk, such as people needing to hold meetings in a busy coffee shop. But with remote working gaining significant popularity since 2020, the audience for regular microphones and headsets dwarfs anyone who would benefit from a Zoom harmonica.
At CES, the Mutalk was paired with a VR headset, a truly hilarious sight that reminds me more of bondage gear than a proper gaming experience. It comes with a removable strap for hands-free chatting. So you can be as loud as you want without disturbing your colleagues, roommates or pets while looking comically uncomfortable.
However, the company admits that the oral case [shudder; that's two, if you're keeping tally] can change the tone of your voice. “Since it is difficult to transmit nasal sounds, your voice may differ slightly from your normal speaking voice.”
The Mutalk will be available in the US later this year for $200. However, the cans you get from Starbucks customers are free.