MeMic: Socially Acceptable Audio Recording Wearable

Cayden Pierce and Wazeer Zulfikar.


Wearables that record audio all the time pose privacy concerns. We want to allow the myriad use cases these wearables allow without the privacy concerns. That's why we're building the MeMic.

Wearables that record audio continuously have various applications such as health monitoring and cognitive augmentation. However, they raise serious privacy concerns amongst bystanders and conversation partners, reducing their social acceptability. To address this, we designed the MeMic, a wearable that records audio only when the user speaks, driven by a hardware-based voice activity detector. A visible light on the wearable indicates when it is actively recording to enhance trust for others. We validate its performance with participants (N=12) wearing the MeMic and performing tasks. Further, an online study (N=168) compared the social acceptability of the MeMic’s self-recording paradigm versus continuous recording. We find significantly less social fears alongside reduced privacy concerns in the self-recording paradigm, thereby improving social acceptability. We also explore different conceptual form factors (glasses, pendant necklace, and behind-the-neck) for the MeMic and find that the pendant necklace is the most preferred. This work contributes towards enhancing the social comfort of wearables that continuously capture users' speech.