Sono, a noise-cancelling device that attaches to your window, has been shortlisted as a top-20 finalist for the 2013 James Dyson Awards. Similar in concept to noise-cancelling headphones, the device detects ambient sounds and actively emits a counter-signal to replace the noise with projected silence or even with another simulated sound like the chirping of birds. It runs on a combination of grid power and harvested energy from surrounding electromagnetic activity such as Wi-Fi signals.
The device is shaped like a pebble and is about the size of an old-school thermostat palm dial. If you have a barking dog for a neighbor and don't want the sound to enter the sanctuary of your home, you just turn the dial on Sono to the birds setting. Every time the dog barks, you'll hear a pleasant chirp instead, according to Austrian designer Rudolf Stefanich of designaffairs. You can also set Sono to target foot traffic, car traffic, construction noises, or emergency vehicle sirens and replace those sounds with silence.
Sono works by detecting the vibrations in the glass of the window. The internal microphone picks up the targeted sound and transfers the signal to a speaker designed to produce the desired effect. An "energy antenna" on the base of the device harvests the ambient energy in the air for added wireless power, a technology that is slowly but surely advancing on the portable device market.
If the device works properly and James Dyson himself selects it as the winner on Nov. 7, Stefanich will garner £30,000 for himself and £10,000 for University of Vienna in Austria where he invented Sono. Other finalist projects include a powered upper body exoskeleton, an automatic suturing tool for the medical industry, and a power generator that harvests energy from ocean waves.