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Red light, be quiet: Japanese device signals overloud restaurant conversations

A "Shizukagozen" device to gauge conversation noise is seen in the city of Aomori on March 10, 2021. (Mainichi/Yushi Ezawa)

AOMORI -- A northern Japan company has brought red light, green light to the dinner table with a device that signals when people are speaking too loudly at restaurants.

    Forte, an IT company based in the city of Aomori, began a demonstration experiment of the "Shizukagozen" device at a local restaurant on March 11. It hopes the machine will help promote "quiet eating" to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    When placed on the table, the gadget -- measuring about 14 centimeters on a side and 5.5 cm tall -- detects ambient sound using a built-in microphone and measures the loudness of conversational voices. It displays one green light when diners are conversing quietly, two when the volume ticks up a little, and then a red light to let them known when they are talking too loudly.

    People are seen dining together to check the reaction of a device to gauge conversation noise, in the city of Aomori on March 10, 2021. (Mainichi/Yushi Ezawa)

    After the roughly weeklong experiment, the company will collect data and consider improvements such as making the device smaller, before possibly putting it into commercial use as early as May.

    The 54-year-old owner-chef of Umibozu, the restaurant cooperating with the experiment, commented, "It's sometimes difficult to warn customers even when I'm concerned about their voices being too loud. I appreciate the device for nudging customers to judge their voice volumes on their own."

    According to Forte, some restaurants and other establishments in the greater Tokyo area have already said they want to introduce the machine. "I hope this device will inspire people to think about how loud a conversation should be when eating together," company president Jun Kasai commented.

    (Japanese original by Yushi Ezawa, Aomori Bureau)

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