Quieting Talking Heads In Open Office

    Norwegian startup Voico is working on a product which could well make open offices cool again.

    Charlotte Irene Soerensen (in the middle) with majority of the team

    The heated discussion around shortfalls of open offices has further boosted the market for different products which make open offices less open – products like walls or booths.

    “There is a lot of players on the market focused on reducing the noise in the office … but as far as we know there is no-one focusing on cancelling the noise at the mouth,” co-founder Charlotte Irene Soerensen, told ArcticStartup in an interview.

    The team does not want to talk about the details of the technology which might well sound too good to be true (of course it will make very little “sound” when its up and running).

    What if your phone calls could really be private also in public space? What if the microphone of your phone would work similar to noise cancellation earphones – all the extra sound would be “sucked in”?

    The first functioning proof of concept – still much larger than the end product – was finished only a few weeks ago, but as a first validation Voico team won this week pitching competition at Technoport16 event in Trondheim, Norway. The jury from investment world focused on one aspect when evaluating the teams – investability.

    When I meet Soerensen the next morning she stresses not to reveal too many details of the technology. But to be fair she does not share any. She only hints that the software aspect is the toughest one for the team at the moment – to make it work so that there would be no delays.

    Three of the four person team of Voico first met late 2014 during master studies at NTNU’s School of Entrepreneurship in Trondheim where they started to work on the startup as part of their studies digging into the topic at their idea search and market assessment course.

    “When we were at the idea search a lot of people said it is impossible, you cannot cancel people’s voice, you cannot do this. It kind of triggered us – everybody said it was impossible, so how cool it would be if we actually achieve this,” Soerensen remembers the early days.

    To find the solution the team looked around at the university, and found a signal processing engineer interested on this topic.

    The 250,000 Norwegian krone prize will be used to hire the engineer to work full time on the startup. In the next 2 months, Voico’s solution will be made small enough to be incorporated into headsets used in offices.

    The following milestone will be making it small enough so it could fit into phones. At the same time the team has started patenting process, which they expect to receive next year.