New Hearing Aid Includes Fitness Tracking, Language Translation
News Sep 12, 2018 | by Ruairi J Mackenzie, Science Writer for Technology Networks
The Livio AI
Starkey Hearing Technologies recently unveiled their latest hearing aid, the Livio AI. The aid leverages artificially intelligent software to adapt to users' listening environments. Starkey says the device does a lot more than just assist in hearing, and includes a range of additional technology, such as a physical activity tracker and integrated language translation.
Hearing loss has a disabling effect on 466 million people worldwide, including over 7 million children under 5 years old. Modern hearing aids already include some pretty sophisticated connectivity, including Bluetooth and internet functionality. The Livio device, however, goes quite a few steps further, and capitalizes on the current craze for fitness devices by including a host of health-minded integrations.
The Future is Hear
Launched August 27 at an event at Starkey’s Minnesota HQ, the Livio contains advances which the Starkey CTO Achin Bhowmik was keen to compare to those seen in the phone market over the last twenty years. The eponymous “artificial intelligence” aspect of the device includes the ability to detect the location and environment in which the user is wearing the aid and optimize the listening experience based on this information. This is, arguably, not the most eye-catching (ear-catching?) feature of the Livio – such capabilities have been advertised in other hearing aid technology.
Rather the Livio’s integration of inertial sensors is its main party trick – this enables it to count physical activity much like other fitness devices. It can count your steps and exercise, and cleverly integrates this with a “brain health” measurement to derive a mind and body health score. The brain health measurement is partly calculated from how much you wear the device, and while it’s arguable whether simply wearing a hearing aid represents training your brain, another component that increases its users’ score when they interact with different people in different environments sounds like a neat way to check on the social health of elderly users. Furthermore, the inertia sensor can detect whether a wearer has fallen, which Bhowmik was keen to point out is a major health hazard for older people.
The translation software is also a major draw, and the promise of sci-fi level language conversion, covering 27 languages, shows Starkey are aiming to bring the multi-billion-dollar hearing aid industry into the future.
As for whether the device can meet these lofty promises, you’ll simply have to keep an eye (and er, ear) out to see if the Livio performs as well as Starkey hope.
Vaitheki Maheswaran, Audiology Specialist for UK-based charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: “The innovation in technology is interesting, not only enabling users to hear better but to monitor their body and mental fitness with the use of an app. However, while this technology is not currently available in the UK, it is important to speak to an audiologist who can help you in choosing the most suitable type of hearing aid for your needs because one type of hearing aid is not suitable for everyone.”
As electronics become smaller and faster, the adoption of "wearables", like smart watches, has increased. However, like regular computers, wearables are vulnerable to conventional hacking. What if we could use the human body itself to transfer and collect information? This area of research is known as human body communication (HBC).