We had an email from a lady named Jennifer Scott talking about a couple of articles she had read and the information in them. She thought that they were good articles for us to cover, we thought she was right. So in the first of a couple of articles like this we decided to look at an article on Forbes in 2015. 4 Game-Changing Technologies For The Deaf And Hard Of Hearing by Robert J Szczerba talked about 4 different technologies that were designed to make life easier, we decided to take a look at what happened to them.
MotionSavvy was founded by a team of students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Their system UNI translates American Sign Language (ASL) into speech, and speech into text. This is a really cool concept aimed at Deaf people with little or limited speech ability. It is similar in concept and design as a tablet. It was to utilise a special camera to track the location of both hands and all ten fingers of the person using sign language. Graphic representations of their hands come up on screen to provide live feedback and to ensure gestures are being captured correctly. It still is a fantastic concept, however, they still haven't brought it to market yet which many of their original backers have found infuriating. In their defence, they have released constant updates and explained where they are during the process so far. I truly hope they get to launch the product this year, because it looks like a fantastic piece of kit.
Solar Ear have been around for a while and they are driven by the mission to deliver low cost hearing devices to low income areas of the Globe. So what exactly drives them? The current production levels of hearing aids meets less than 10% of the global need, and the cost of hearing aids and batteries has often been beyond the reach of the poor, it is a simple as that. Solar Ear is a solar-powered hearing aid battery that costs a fraction of what traditional batteries cost, and lasts for 2-3 years (rather than one week). One of the key things for people with hearing loss in the third world is access to the tech. There are many different foundations that provide free hearing aids across the Third World. However, the problem of access to hearing aid batteries remains. While affordability might be an issue, simple access to somewhere to buy them is also a major concern. Solar Ear decide the best way forward was to deliver rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries that are solar powered which deals with the problem of access to electrical power. The company also offers complete hearing aids at greatly reduced prices. Solar Ear continues to go from strength to strength.
ISEEWHATYOUSAY (from Digital Army Devices, Inc.), again this is a great concept, it captures spoken language on a smartphone and converts it into text, and sends the text via Bluetooth to a special user device. The company originally offered a specialized receiving device about the size of a flash stick, and it then begun to offer apps to receive the text on smartphones and wearables. The apps are still around however, they never really gained traction. The last updates on them were in 2014, I am kind of sorry to see that because I think it would be a cool idea. Perhaps though it was an idea before it's time, I mean smartwatches have only really begun to make an impact in the last year. I think this concept when paired with a set of hearing aids could make a lot of sense. It's something that I would like to explore maybe later in another article.
Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms
At the age of ten, a girl named Hayleigh noticed that her many of her classmates at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing hid their hearing aids behind their hair. She said “I wanted to make my hearing aids shine and be fancy and proud of my hearing aids,”. So she started designing jewelery that can best be described as \"hearing aid bling\". Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms are available in a variety of designs and colours, including some for cochlear implants. Hayleighs Cherished charms goes from strength to strength and her simple idea has at least helped to change the ideas that kids have about their hearing aids.
So, two out of four of the technologies covered have really moved forward. Unfortunately one has more or less fell by the wayside and the other hasn't delivered yet. That is often the case though in tech, great ideas are sometimes hard to deliver. I am hoping that the MotionSavvy UNI is released to market soon, I think it really is a fantastic device, I hope even more that it is used across all public buildings and eventually every business. If it worked, it would finally give the signing Deaf unfettered access to the services they need. How cool would that be?