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Private, transparent but soundproof chambers in cafes and similar public establishments

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Povilas S
Povilas S Sep 28, 2021
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I go to cafes mostly to work with a laptop. And I noticed that these days around half of the customers there do the same. I like the social atmosphere there and the change of environment compared to home. However, the noise might sometimes be the main drawback.

One workaround is to put on some music through the headphones, but music is not always desired while working, sometimes you just want silence. It would be nice if you could isolate yourself in a proposed private chamber which would be silent, but transparent so that you wouldn't feel totally isolated from the people and the environment, you could look around, have eye contact with people, smile, etc.

I think such chambers would also be useful for people who come to cafes to have conversations about sensitive topics, e.g. someone just broke up with their partner and a friend is comforting them and they don't want other people being able to hear this. Also, they would be useful for some business meetings. In fact, one could think of many scenarios where such chambers are useful and I think people would use them quite often.

Technical part:

Modern buildings in big cities often have a lot of glass in their architecture. Cafes often get established on the ground floor of large office buildings and have huge windows with a nice view outside. This is convenient for making such transparent chambers, they could be made along those outside-facing glass walls, that way you'd only need to make many transparent partitions and the "isolated" customers would enjoy the nice view outside as well as be able to see everything inside. The people sitting further in, away from the outside walls, would also still be able to see the outside view to an extent.

Transparent soundproofing insulation is not hard to make, modern windows are essentially that, the vacuum between the glasses serves the insulating function. Also, rather average insulation would be enough in this case. The only complication is that such multi-layered windows that a soundproof chamber would be made of would have to be rather huge to create the feeling of spaciousness, dividing a huge window into sections kills that vibe and you feel way more enclosed.

To justify the price for making such chambers, they could be reserved in advance for an additional price by people who anticipate working/having private conversations inside them. This would be very similar to reserving tables in restaurants. Those chambers that would not get reserved could be used by any customer of the cafe until they got reserved or rather until the time of the arrival of a reserving guest approached.
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Option for complete privacy

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Oct 06, 2021
The transparent walls can also have an option to be turned into opaque walls if the customer wants total privacy.
This can be done using two-way mirrors, blinds or special lighting.

This would turn your booth into a mini office if you need to have a conversation with someone or take a call or whatever.

The problem with this would just be that cafes might not really want to allow customers complete privacy, for their own safety and secondly (this is something that might be true of the entire idea) cafes do not necessarily want to create the perfect office environment because they wouldn't want people to sit in a booth for 8 hours, only buying two coffees throughout the day.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
I anyway buy two coffees or so when sitting for 5-6 hours in a cafe;) They don't seem to mind even if you take one coffee and sit all day. I mean technically they can't kick you out :D But I see your point, with soundproof chambers it becomes a different situation, because you have special conditions provided.

I was thinking about this myself when writing the idea. Maybe the additional price for reserving such a chamber could cover for this or if the owners decided that such a system is unprofitable they could charge additionally just for using the chamber, not only for reservation. Perhaps you could be allowed to use it for a certain amount of hours after paying some fee and then you wouldn't need to buy anything from the drinks or food unless you wanted yourself.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw2 months ago
Povilas S They can't kick you out, but if a place with 7 tables only sold 14 coffees per day it would close. So encouraging people to stay long and spend little will not work.
Some sort of membership fee could help, but then it becomes a lot like renting an office space.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Spook Louw Well, cafes get perhaps most of their income from takeaway orders. Regarding the chambers, it would depend on how much they would charge for the chamber, say per hour. They might profit quite well from this. But yes, it becomes a bit like renting an office then. Anyway, the profitability of such a cafe should be tested in practice, before any conclusions can be made. Maybe simply charging for reservations would be enough.

A cafe with such chambers might profit quite well from food sales because people sitting there and working for longer will surely spend money on food.
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The beauty of the contrast - silent cafes

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J
Juran Sep 28, 2021
I am amazed by the contrasts in this world. I think we all are. We enjoy seeing how somebody poor became a millionaire, how the storm-destroyed city got rebuilt, or how the snow falls while we watch it from a warm living room. That's exactly what I love about this idea. The silence and concentration while working are in contrast to the social side of the cafe (people talking, cars passing by, friends laughing). Finding that source of inspiration and focus while working in a dynamic environment can be tricky and that's where this chamber could help. To enhance the contrast offered by the chamber, I would suggest opening silent cafes in the busiest parts of the cities. It would maybe be easier than installing silent chambers.

The final idea would be to build an isolated cafe with many glass surfaces. The cafe should be sound-proof, vibration-proof, with double doors, padded tables, surfaces, glasses, and floors. The chairs would be made of material that does not produce squicking sounds. The sounds of the coffee machine or refrigerator would be eliminated by moving the bar into a separate isolated room. Tables would be separated by glass walls or padded walls to reduce any chat. In the cafe, there would be literally no sound.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni2 months ago
There are a few such silent cafes in my city. They are called "book cafes". Since the concept is new, they have two separate areas - an outdoor area for chatting and an indoor one for working or reading. However, they advertise the indoor area only. They might want to develop the cafe into a work cafe, like you and Povilas S suggested but are waiting for more people to get to know about it. They have a cover charge that increases by the hour.

The problem with such cafes is that they need to be located in silent areas. They cannot be located on busy streets. Therefore, Povilas S 's idea might work.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Juran Yes and talking about the contrast, I think normal cafes with soundproof chambers would bring about more contrast than silent cafes. A silent cafe is almost like a library where you can order something (if you want it completely silent then even the ordering part has to be automated, cause you can't speak there), so such cafes would kind of lose the concept of the cafe itself. The chambers that I proposed would allow the silence inside the ordinary cafe environment, this really creates a contrast, because you always have two things to compare with one another, it allows both socializing and isolation in the same establishment.

Making two separate areas for different purposes, as Shubhankar Kulkarni told about is also an option, but it's not the same, because you'd only be able to be either silent amongst silent people or in the chatty environment, there's no way to be surrounded by silence alone in the chatty environment. Also, the same complication is valid for a couple or a few people who would want to be able to converse without others listening.
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General comments

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J
Juran2 months ago
I love the idea of having a silent studying/working chamber in cafe and I would definitely use it. I first thought that it would be easier implemented in Northern countries where cafes and people are a bit different from, for example, in Spain. But then I realized not all bars in Spain are loud and crowdy, so this would actual fit perfectly into any modern cafe.

The main things to consider here would be the space it would require and the safety of such chamber. The safety can be maximized by using polymers instead of glass. Also, would that chamber require special ventilation? If yes, smoking rooms and chambers could be repurposed in that manner (https://scontent.fzag4-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.18169-9/12347819_1720312434871214_7493552450968333210_n.jpg?_nc_cat=103&ccb=1-5&_nc_sid=9267fe&_nc_ohc=cvbcAp-OUBwAX8e5zrP&_nc_ht=scontent.fzag4-1.fna&oh=6b1c36f42e4644f2a64bbe43a2d9b153&oe=61796A41 :D).
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 months ago
Juran Yes, actually Spanish are one of the loudest people I've heard xD Not that it's a bad thing, just the difference. I can be loud myself when I'm really engaged in a conversation so I think Spain is where I could flourish without being shushed down xD

I think safety wouldn't be a concern in this case, any window glass is usually hard to break these days. Also - it's a cafe, not a bar xD As for the size of the space – any space could potentially be enclosed in transparent soundproofing insulation. Yes, those rooms could also be used by smokers if ventilation was really good there, good idea.
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