Village Idiot sends word of a patent granted to MIT researchers for a cone of silence a la Maxwell Smart
. This one doesn't use plastic, but rather active and networked sensors and speakers embedded in a (probably indoor) space such as an open-plan office. "In 'Get Smart,' secret agents wanting a private conversation would deploy the 'cone of silence,' a clear plastic contraption lowered over the agents' heads. It never worked — they couldn't hear each other, while eavesdroppers could pick up every word. Now a modern cone of silence that we are assured will work is being patented by engineers Joe Paradiso and Yasuhiro Ono of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ... Instead of plastic domes, they use a sensor network to work out where potential eavesdroppers are, and speakers to generate a subtle masking sound at just the right level. ... The array of speakers... aims a mix of white noise and randomized office hubbub at the eavesdroppers. The subtle, confusing sound makes the conversation unintelligible."
One comment thread on the article wonders about the propriety of tracking people around an office in order to preserve privacy.