Technology isn’t all about looks. Audio is equally, if not more important.
That’s why Microsoft built a world-class audio lab at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
“One of the big things right now is personal assistants, like Cortana for example,” LeSalle Munroe, senior engineer of Surface devices, said in a video for Microsoft. “For that to work well, audio is very important: audio on the microphone side, and audio on the speaker side. We want to have the best tools available for the job.”
Recently, Microsoft invited a representative from Guinness World Records to test the acoustic qualities of its audio lab. The results were nothing short of stellar.
Here’s an inside look at the quietest place on the planet.
This chamber in Microsoft's audio lab is anechoic, meaning it's completely devoid of echoes. All sounds are absorbed.
'We need a highly controlled environment,' says Gopal Gopal, principal human factors engineer at Microsoft's audio lab. 'These labs are about creating a rock-solid acoustic controlled environment.'
'When you plug your power supply into your device, it makes noise. When you adjust the brightness of the display on your screen, it makes noise,' Munroe says. 'This chamber gives you the opportunity to look for those really small signals that can have a big impact on the end user.'
Here's a little bit of context on what Microsoft's been able to achieve: A jet engine creates about 136 A-weighted decibels (dbA), which is how loud sounds are perceived by the human ear.
And a random air particle in space creates about -23 dBA. You can't get any quieter than that because that's just air particles moving.
Before Microsoft approached Guinness World Records about its own audio lab, the world's quietest place was an anechoic chamber in the Orfield Laboratory in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sound in that room measured at -13 dBA.
Microsoft soundly (sorry) beat that record: Its audio lab is -20.6 dBA, right at the edge of what's physically possible.
Microsoft's anechoic chamber will help the company test future products. 'It's the best tool available.' Munroe says. 'It's a tool we can use across the company for scenarios we probably haven't even thought about yet.'
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