Noopl is the smartest gadget at CES 2021 — and I really want one

(Image credit: Noopl)

It's early still for CES 2021, but in Noopl, I think I've found the first product at this year's show that really speaks to me — precisely because it allows me to hear the actual people speaking to me.

One of the reasons I'm not particularly fussed about attending CES virtually this year is because it removes one of the most uncomfortable aspects of attending live events for me — trying to hear the person speaking over the din of a busy show floor.

My hearing isn't exactly what it used to be, if it used to be anything at all. So surround me with thousands of people all talking at once, music blaring from nearby booths and other types of ambient noise, and everyone who tries to talk to me ends up sounding like Miss Othmar from the Peanuts cartoons.

Noopl has felt my pain and is coming to the rescue of me and anyone else who's ever struggled to hold a conversation in a noisy venue like a restaurant, party or public place. The start-up's self-named audio device plugs into the Lightning port of an iPhone and projects the amplified voice of the person you're talking to right into your AirPods Pro earbuds. 

The Noopl device that plugs into your iPhone features three MEMs microphones and works with an app on your phone to perform low-latency audio signal processing. Meanwhile, Noopl takes advantage of the spatial audio feature enabled by iOS 14 for the AirPods Pro to track your head and automatically focus on the voice of the person you're looking at.

Turn your head, and the Noopl mic will steer the beam toward whoever you're looking at now. This means you can converse with multiple people while filtering out background noise.


(Image credit: Noopl)

Other AirPod models will work with Noopl, though you'll give up the head tracking feature; instead, you'll need to use the app to manually direct where the sound is coming from — a helpful feature if you want to focus your gaze on a document while still listening to the person talking.

Because Noopl is plugged into your Lightning port, it's drawing its power from your iPhone. However, Noopl executives tell me that the impact on iPhone battery life is essentially negligible, using around 1% of the phone's total battery capacity.

The device currently works with the iPhone 7 or later, running iOS 14, and AirPods Pro earbuds are recommended. An Android version is in the works for the third quarter of this year.

Noopl debuts in February for $199. You'll enjoy a $50 discount if you order prior to the device's launch.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.