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IEEE Spectrum




When John Walker founded Cypher four years ago, he had a simple premise: No one wants to waste time on a noisy phone call. So he built software for smartphones, incorporating a deep neural network, which could apply machine learning to deliver crystal-clear conversations devoid of background noise.

To show it off, John Yoon, Cypher’s head of strategy, recently stood at the busy intersection outside IEEE Spectrum’s office building in New York City. Yoon called CEO Walker, who was waiting in our office. They spoke on speakerphone for a few minutes as car horns honked and sirens blared.

Once Yoon switched Cypher’s demo program on, the call became as quiet and clear as if he had dialed from a conference room. The company says it can cut out 99 percent of background noise at the cost of introducing a delay of just 24 milliseconds (far below the 200 ms that would be noticeable to a human listener).


Ronan de Renesse, a consumer technology analyst at Ovum, says top-of-the-line smartphone models cost $200 to $400 to manufacture, so saving 50 cents per phone isn’t enough to pique manufacturers’ interest.

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