Useless Tech Episode 5: Hushme, The World’s First Voice Mask

Technological innovation does not always translate to making our lives easier or increased productivity. I see too many resources wasted on developing products to solve a problem with technology. This is a main reason why I started the Useless Tech series. I wanted to emphasize that throwing technology at problem isn’t always the best way to fix the issues that come about in our daily lives. Hushme is a prime example of a half-assed attempt to make money on a poorly thought-out product.

How It Works

Hushme is a voice mask that protects the user’s speech privacy when speaking on the phone. The Hushme works by wrapping around your mouth, which is locked in magnetically. Think of Bane’s mask from Batman. The device is connected via Bluetooth. When the Hushme is not in use, it hangs around your neck to look like a normal headset.

There are two modes to the voice mask: passive and active. The passive mode muffles the sound of your voice using the insulation of the device. The sound is equivalent to 25-30 decibels, which is comparable to a whisper. The active mode will emit a preset sound anytime you speak, so that nearby people will only hear the preset sounds rather than your conversation.

Ugly Design

Tech products that make you look obnoxious usually don’t do well with the public regardless of how useful it is. The Hushme is no exception. It looks like a muzzle you would put over someone who talks too much. Hushme seems to understand how ridiculous the design is. Einstein is quoted on the Kickstarter page saying “For an idea that does not first seem insane, there is no hope..”. I don’t think Einstein was talking about a plastic muzzle that spews out random sounds so people can’t hear your phone conversation.

Lack of Innovation

At first glance, I thought the Hushme technology was similar to the noise-cancelling technology of Bose headphones. This is not the case. The “passive mode” is literally just a muffled sound because you have a ridiculous mask over your mouth. It is the equivalent of covering your mouth with your hand when you talk and calling it “passive mode”.

The active mode is just as dumb. There are multiple preset sounds you can choose from such as Minion, Darth Vader, R2D2, monkey, rain, etc. Pretty much anytime you talk, you’ll hear noises coming from the device’s speaker rather than your conversation. Not only will you look like an idiot with a piece of plastic wrapped around your mouth, you’ll be emitting monkey sounds to all nearby people. Can you guess who will be the most annoying person in the room?

The Hushme is set to be priced at $189 a unit. I have a cheaper solution. Simply get up and walk to an area where you can talk in private. You might be asking “but what if you’re in a library and you don’t want to leave your things unattended”. Well, the Hushme won’t solve that problem because you’ll still be able to hear the muffled conversation or be that annoying guy emitting R2D2 sounds.

The concept of being able to block sounds with a device is actually a cool idea. I can imagine it being useful at call centers or boyfriends who play video games in the middle of the night next to their girlfriend. However, it is not cool when you slap a plastic muzzle around someone’s mouth and call it an “the world’s first voice mask”. I’d love to see someone in public use one of these with a VR headset at the same time.

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