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Superpower: Volum(e)an

I can listen to as many or as little sound sources around me (no matter how far) at whatever volumes I choose.

Published onNov 04, 2019
Superpower: Volum(e)an

“Build Yourself a Superpower.”

Design some kind of plausible way to instantiate that superpower using known or very-near future technologies.

Superhero power:

I can listen to as many or as little sound sources around me at whatever volumes I choose.

Supervillain power:

I can change the volumes of every sound source around me to whatever I choose.

Super hero scenarios:

Scenario 1: (Mute)

I can mute the entire world around me and enjoy silence. If I do this just in my ears, I’d be a superhero in bliss. I would definitely not hear the emergency hotline phone ring when the avengers wanted me, but I’d be in my Zen-silent mode.

Scenario 2: (Noise Cancelling Plus Plus)

I can remove all sorts of construction noise, train/plane engine noise, conversations around me I don’t want to hear etc. I can reduce the sounds I don’t care about in different contexts.

Scenario 3: (Sound Enhancement Plus Plus Plus)

I could increase the volume of the sound sources I was paying attention to. Like a conversation with a friend in the really loud and distracting T or my favorite song playing over the public speakers in a café.

Scenario 4: (Sound re-mixing)

Imagine I got really bad seats at a concert, I could just turn up the volumes of the musicians and mix them in the way I want. Listen to the bass guitar more and then listen to the drum section primarily etc. I could do this for all music I listen to. I could turn up the volume of my friend who speaks really softly or turn down the volume of the person screaming at the top of their lungs.

Scenario 5: (Private sonic booth everywhere)

I could have private conversations in public places where no one but the person I intended to would hear what I was saying to them. I could practice singing at the top of my lungs in public spaces, or practice playing the violin (very badly) in the middle of the night without disturbing my flat-mates.

Scenario 6: (Are you in trouble several blocks away? I hear your calls for help)

Tangible way to instantiate this power:

Earbuds are getting more and more popular with Apple’s air pods, Amazon’s echo buds, Samsung’s galaxy buds etc. Though their abilities come close to doing something more than simple bass enhancement and active noise cancellation (amazon has Alexa installed into the buds [reference -]), it is normalizing the constant use of ear buds as a filter between our ears and the world we consume.

At the same time there are many examples of kick-starter campaigns with ambitious goals like the Doppler Labs prototype EQ on ear buds ( or Multiple pre calculated noise profiles for physical acoustic filters (

Just as ear buds are getting more common, advancements in source separation research are also climbing at an exponential rate. Commercially available tools for source separation inside a digital audio workstation environment are surprisingly capable for certain categories of sounds. ( but the academic community climbs higher and higher without the overhead of achieving real time results. [] show some incredibly amazing demos with “real-world scenarios involving heated interviews, noisy bars, and screaming children,”. Yes! you read that right, Screaming Children, are filtered out to reconstruct other speech.

It seems plausible to extrapolate the trend of faster onboard deep learning computation to transcend into ear bud development.

This superhero is partly inspired by Marvel’s Blue Ear, who was created in honor of Anthony Smith, a hard-of-hearing 4-year-old comic book fan from Salem, New Hampshire.

[Reference -]

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