The sound of crunching chips is annoying. Doritos has made a silencer.

The noise of someone chomping on chips can be irritating, especially if it's directly in your ear, on say, a voice chat or a Zoom call.

Voices - and crunching - are amplified when people are using headsets, which are often worn by gamers, many of whom spend hours at a time playing multiplayer video games.

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So the chip brand Doritos created Doritos Silent, a crunch cancellation software that removes the sound of chewing from voice chat, Zoom or any call that uses headphones. But it was really created for gamers.


"It works on anything that accepts a microphone," said Dylan Fashbaugh, lead developer at Brooklyn-based Smooth Technology which worked with Doritos to create the free app that launched earlier this month.

It can be used on any PC, and the company says it will eventually be expanded to other devices.

Fashbaugh has been a gamer for about 20 years, and said he is familiar with the annoyance of fellow gamers chewing loudly on chips.

"Crunch is one of the most distracting features that could throw someone off their game," said Mustafa Shamseldin, chief marketing officer of international foods at PepsiCo, which owns Doritos.

Doritos surveyed more than 3,000 people - including in China, India, Portugal, Britain and the United States - and found that gamers like to snack while playing, but they also think the sounds of other people snacking is distracting.

Of the 200 people surveyed in the United States, 90 percent snack while gaming, and the majority said chips make the most bothersome noise when another gamer is eating them.

Research also showed that the crunch of Doritos is part of what people like about them, said Fernando Kahane - the head of global marketing for the chip brand.

"There is something about the crunch that has to do with it, funnily enough," he said.

Many people crave crunchy foods because they are more stimulating to eat than soft foods, which is why chips are a go-to snack.

"That's one of the reasons Doritos is so popular with gamers," Kahane said.

Knowing the crunch was a draw for the eater and a drawback for the listener, they came up with a workaround for what they call a "pain point."

"Instead of having to launch new Doritos, we could actually solve that pain point with a technology," said Kahane.

The prospect of making a less crispy Doritos chip surfaced several years ago, and was widely mocked.

In 2018, the former chief executive of PepsiCo claimed Doritos was developing a "chip for women," which was intended to be a low-crunch alternative, with reduced orange finger dust. There was backlash online, and PepsiCo later said it was a misunderstanding, and it was not, in fact, releasing a specific Doritos product for women.

To address the crunch issue in the gaming community, Doritos turned to technology.

"That's always been a distraction for me," Fashbaugh said of the chomping in his headphones. "I'll lose my focus when one person starts eating. That sound of crunching can just take you out of the experience, but you still want to enjoy your snack because realistically snacking and gaming go hand-in-hand."

Working on this software, Fashbaugh said, has "unified two of my big interests of creating technology and gaming."

He and his team began the process by researching and testing out various noise cancellation techniques. Then, "we got a lot of people to crunch Doritos into a microphone," said Fashbaugh.

About 500 people were recorded munching on Doritos, and those recordings were used to simulate 5,000 different crunch sounds.

"Then, we took sounds of lots of us talking and other people talking, and mixed those together with the crunch sounds so we could generate an AI that could learn the sound of crunching and voicing," said Fashbaugh. "We needed to make something that could really separate the sounds of voices and crunches."

While the AI software is "trained exclusively on Doritos," he said, it actually works on some other crunch sounds, including different types of chips, crackers and raw vegetables.

"I think it's going to have an impact," said Fashbaugh, adding that it was designed to keep voice chat clear.

Kahane said this is just the beginning of the chip brand's AI ambitions.

"In the past, we would think about food innovation. Now, we are thinking about the whole consumer experience," Kahane said.

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