According to a new poll commissioned by Ford, most people admit in-laws at Christmas are an annoyance. Talking is the most irritating habit, highlighted by one in five surveyed, followed by talking too loudly, and criticising their grown-up children's parenting skills. Little wonder perhaps that the festive period is also a peak time for divorces.
But what if you could silence the sniping and grumbles using the same noise cancelling-technology found in many headphones - but without the headphones? Ford believes you could choose what - and more importantly who - you listen to within the next five to 10 years.
"Position the microphones and loudspeakers in just the right place and noise-cancelling technology could enable you to choose whose voice you want to hear and whose you don't," said Ford's sound expert Dr. Ralf Heinrichs. "It would work particularly well after Christmas lunch, when tempers can be a little frayed after too much food and alcohol, in armchairs which integrate the technology into wrap around headrests."
Headphone-free noise-cancelling technology already exists in Ford cars including S-MAX and Edge, with undesirable engine noise detected using microphones placed above the driver and passengers' heads, and broadcasting opposing sound waves through the audio system and amplifiers.
The next quantum jump in the technology is expected to be personalised audio zones. With microphones and amplifiers located in the headrest, occupants could make calls, listen to music, or stream TV, without disturbing anyone else - or having to wear headphones.