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Innovation of the Week: Noise-cancelling forks

Shutterstock/Lisovskaya Natali

What is it? A noise-cancelling fork to cover slurping sounds

Innovator: Nissin noodle company

What were they thinking? Everyone loves instant noodles. But no one loves the sound of the slurp. So Nissin, the Japanese company behind Cup Noodles, worked with sound artist Shinya Kiyokawa on the obvious solution: a $130 fork that can pick up slurping noises and send an instant signal to your cellphone, which plays whooshing or xylophone sounds to cover up the unpleasantness.

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Does it work? A promotional video from Nissin suggests the technology not only works, but soothes cultural tensions. “I love Japan,” a foreigner says to camera near the start of the video, “but that noise is uncomfortable.” By the end, with the slurping sound whooshed away, everyone is laughing and hugging. Westerners might not feel so joyous, though, if they understood the origins of the fork’s response technology. According to Food and Wine magazine, it came from noise-canceling software used in toilets.