A project by UChicago CS research groups SAND Lab and the Human Computer Integration Lab to develop a wearable microphone jammer to protect user privacy near smart devices was named a finalist in the 2020 Innovation By Design Awards, given out by Fast Company magazine. The project was one of the 8 finalists chosen in the Experimental category.

Increasingly popular digital assistants and home smart devices have raised privacy concerns over their “always on” microphones and the potential for unintentional recordings. To protect people from these intrusions, UChicago PhD students Yuxin Chen, Huiying Li, Shan-Yuan Teng, faculty members Pedro Lopes, Ben Zhao, and Heather Zheng, and visiting students Zhijing Li and Steven Nagel teamed up to develop a wearable microphone jammer, emitting ultrasonic noise to disable nearby microphones. 

In addition to the Fast Company honor, the wearable jammer has also received coverage from the New York Times and hundreds of media outlets worldwide. The paper describing the project received an Honorable Mention at the 2020 CHI conference.

You can read more about the work at the SAND Lab website.

The Innovation By Design awards, which can be found in the October/November 2020 issue of Fast Company, recognize people, teams, and companies solving problems through design. One of the most sought-after design awards in the industry, Innovation by Design is the only competition to honor creative work at the intersection of design, business, and innovation.

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