NoiseBlock: the free software noise cancelling solution helping people working remote during the pandemic

Read time: 3 mins

SONIC Tag QR code

We are proud to announce that we have released NoiseBlock, after being selected as one of the finalist projects at the #EUvsVirus Hackathon.

How it works

NoiseBlock is a Windows Tray application that filters the surrounding noise feeding into the device microphone, allowing you to enjoy a crystal clear conversation with your team.

Below, you’ll find a quick demonstration to show how it works. This was recorded from a GXT 244 Microphone using the built-in voice recording functionality in Windows 10. While NoiseBlock is not enabled, you can hear the loud city traffic and drilling machine in the background of the call, even as no one is speaking. But when NoiseBlock is on, the disruptive sound disappears as the machine learning algorithm requires a few seconds to identify everything else on the background except for the voice.

Impact

NoiseBlock is Free to use for any user worldwide, no matter the country. We are confident NoiseBlock will make life easier for people who are not lucky enough to have privacy and silence around while they work from home.

The learning algorithm we are using allows our solution to evolve over time and has the potential to become one of the best noise cancelling solutions in the world. One that can be used by the people who need it the most as NoiseBlock can be scaled on potentially billions of devices.

Context

Small apartments, washing machines, loud neighbors and all sorts of other unthinkable noise generators combined with non ideal environments go to show some of the social inequalities humanity is still struggling with. NoiseBlock was created and launched during the #EUvsVirus Pan-European Hackathon initiative supported by the European Commission. Our purpose is to help when that's needed most and that's why we made it available for free.

How to use NoiseBlock

  1. Download Installer: FREE download here only for Windows devices

  2. Install & Accept Audio Driver: NoiseBlock will promt you to install a Virtual Microphone Driver

  3. Configure Zoom to use Noise Block:Select the Virtual Microphone (Cable Output: VB-Audio Virtual Cable) from Zoom settings or any other video conferencing software, such as Teams, Discord, Hangouts, Twitch etc.

NoiseBlock configure zoom

Inspiration

After the first days of quarantine we've noticed a lot of complaints from people working from home due to noisy environments and we realized how lucky we are to either live in spacious homes or to be able to afford expensive hardware such as Bose or Plantronics headsets.

How it was built

NoiseBlock works directly with the device microphone driver using low level C programming to process the sound input. This allows NoiseBlock to have an excellent performance and is needed because we are processing the microphone in real time with almost no latency.
Excessive audio latency has the potential to degrade call quality in telecommunications applications and NoiseBlock was specifically created to avoid just that.

The NoiseBlock learning algorithm is capable of evolving over time and has the potential to become one of the best noise cancelling solutions in the world.

Summary

Hackathons bring people together and, in a short period of time, the possibility to learn new skills, find new collaborators, and plan future work that can be surprisingly fulfilling. This will also be useful after the Hackathon ends, as we plan to remain active in the #EUvsVirus Community and continue to elaborate on ideas and inspire new, creative ways of thinking about projects.

Furthermore, it was both humbling and insightful to learn more about the various working from home conditions people have and to be able to care for that need. Small apartments, washing machines, loud neighbors and all sorts of other unthinkable noise generators combined with non ideal environments go to show some of the social inequalities humanity is still struggling with. NoiseBlock is just something we created with care and hope will help others when they need it most.