This smart table listens and records your meeting conversations

This table produces Spark Notes-like transcripts during a meeting, eliminating the need to have to jot down every word.

The New York Times R&D Lab was first launched in 2006 as a way to forecast game-changing trends and technologies that will arise in the next three to five years, and then build prototypes to envision how those ideas will impact media’s future. Their latest invention, the aptly-dubbed Listening Table, is like any other piece of office furniture except for the fact that it can record only the most important, relevant moments from a meeting.


Let’s face it, meetings and workshops can be dreadful. Beyond lengthy presentations and constant bickering, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to follow along amid all the chaos — a problem the Listening Table hopes to alleviate. As Gizmodo reports, the smart table merges both pervasive data collection and the Internet of Things into a brand-spanking new concept.

The four-foot-wide table is covered in 14 capacitive strips, while under its hood lies an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) with a custom board, a Mac Mini that runs the server, an Android tablet and some simple cabling. As its name suggests, the accessory listens to you and your colleagues in real-time through a microphone located in the middle of the table using Android speech recognition. Surrounding the microphone is a series of moving LED lights, which indicate whether the device is listening to participants, while the edge of the table is outfitted with eight single-pixel thermal cameras that can determine who is talking or gesturing.

The Listening Table isn’t just recording what’s being said, it’s also capturing why it’s being said, and what’s important about it. Whenever a meeting participating touches one of the capacitive strips on the table, the system captures the audio and text transcription from the 30 seconds before and after the marker was triggered. When a meeting concludes, participants can see a high-level summary digest showing all the key discussion items. Meanwhile, a flat-screen TV located a couple of feet away displays the words as they are being spoken, each in varying shades. MAKE: Magazine notes that lighter, grayer words are deemed less relevant (“the,” “a,” and other articles), while key topics are solid black.


In addition, the table features an on/off switch, which activates and disables its listening capabilities. With privacy in mind, all transcripts locally stored in its database are deleted every 28 days. Ultimately, the goal of the project wasn’t necessarily to create a product in the traditional sense, but instead to try to put different technologies in dialogue with each other in a single design.

It’s one thing to make a table that transcribes everything, and quite another to make a Table whose very appearance makes it obvious what it is doing. We believe you have to build something real — and live with it for a while — in order to really understand the durable impact of the technologies and strategies you’re working with,” the New York Times R&D lab concludes

Interested? You can read its entire write-up here, or head over to its official page here.

2 thoughts on “This smart table listens and records your meeting conversations

  1. Pingback: Here are some unbelievable projects to help celebrate Arduino Day | Bits & Pieces from the Embedded Design World

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