Christmas and visits from the in-laws can be super stressful. And this goes off the scale when both happen at once, says Ford.
According to a new poll commissioned by Ford, most people admit in-laws at Christmas are an annoyance. Talking is the most irritating habit, highlighted by one in five surveyed, followed by talking too loudly, and criticising their grown-up children’s parenting skills. Little wonder perhaps that the festive period is also a peak time for divorces.
But what if you could silence the sniping and grumbles using the same noise cancelling technology found in many headphones – but without the headphones? Ford believes you could choose what – and more importantly who – you listen to within the next five to 10 years.
“Position the microphones and loudspeakers in just the right place and noise-cancelling technology could enable you to choose whose voice you want to hear and whose you don’t,” said Ford’s sound expert Dr Ralf Heinrichs. “It would work particularly well after Christmas lunch, when tempers can be a little frayed after too much food and alcohol, in armchairs which integrate the technology into wrap around headrests.”
Headphone-free noise cancelling technology already exists in Ford cars including the S-MAX and Edge, with undesirable engine noise detected using microphones placed above the driver and passengers’ heads, and broadcasting opposing sound waves through the audio system and amplifiers. The next quantum jump in the technology is expected to be personalised audio zones. With microphones and amplifiers located in the headrest, occupants could make calls, listen to music, or stream TV, without disturbing anyone else – or having to wear headphones.
Positioning headphones and microphones in the headrests would also enable those in the car to talk to other occupants more easily, so that parents in the driving seat could easily be heard by children in the back, without turning around and taking their eyes off the road. It would also be possible to reduce distracting noise, to better concentrate on driving.
“For drivers, this is all quite feasible in the next five to 10 years or so,” Heinrichs added. “And if it can be done in cars, it could certainly be done in the home too. We already use this tech to reduce engine noise. But in the future there is the potential for drivers and passengers to tune out their fellow travellers’ conversation, music, or phone calls.”
According to the Ford poll, women are more likely than men to dread Christmas with the in-laws. And one in three of those surveyed said they would like to reduce the time spent together – or avoid a visit altogether. Avoidance tactics include washing up more than usual to stay out of the way, pretending to be ill and pretending to have to work.