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Voice First, What is it & Why is it Important For Hearing Aids?

The term Voice First has been bandied about for quite a while now. It refers primarily to the concept of computing devices that are accessed and controlled by voice. They are an ever-increasing deal and many technology businesses across the world are spending real money on strategies, features and indeed devices that fit within the voice-first future. While you may have never heard about it before, you actually may well use a voice-first device or feature every day.  For instance, you probably know what an Alexa device is, or perhaps a Google Home device, you may even have used voice search on your Android phone or been regaled by the rather dulcet tones of Siri. If you have, well then you know what voice-first devices are all about. But what does voice-first have to do with hearing aids and their future? Well open a beer, or pour a glass of that fine wine you really like and let's talk about voice-first, hearing aid development, my mate Bob, and why it could be all so damned beautiful. 

Starkey Livio

Explosion of Tech

Voice-first is going to explode over the next few years as the technology becomes better and more relevant to more users. The success of smart speakers surprised many people and older people have adopted them as fast as any other generation. It's because it makes thing easy, no typing, no faffing around for glasses, no damn keyboards, no damn fat finger moments, no remembering I before e except after c, simply talk. Say it out loud, speak your requirements. Oh my god, the simple joy of saying "Alexa, play can't stop the feeling by Justin Timberlake and have it burst into life. Not that I would know anything about that of course, heard about it from a friend, honest.

Anyway, you get the idea right? But voice-first represents much more than access to the music you want to hear. It could also mean access to information, directions to a place, the answer to burning questions and what you are doing today. It doesn't stop at that, in fact, it only stops at the limit of our imagination. That is where hearing aids come in, hearing aids are an ideal access device to voice-first. You wear them every day and most modern hearing aids will connect to smartphones, some modern hearing aids will connect to anything with a Bluetooth connection like a smart speaker.  

That means they are ideal devices to enable voice-first technology, in fact, they are probably the ultimate device for voice-first technology. What will that mean for the future development of hearing aids, and who the hell is Bob?

Bob You Beautiful Man

Well, Bob is my imaginary friend, I have spoken about him before. He is a personal assistant that lives in my hearing aids and keeps me on track every day because I seriously need someone to keep me on track every day. In my imagination, I ask Bob what I am doing and he not only tells me where I need to be, who I need to see but also how I am to get there.

He updates me constantly on the information I need such as the weather, whether my flight is late and what the delays are on my route and how to avoid them. Bob is beautiful and unfortunately, he doesn't exist yet. That doesn't mean that within a few years that Bob won't exist, in fact, voice-first will probably ensure that something like Bob will exist and sooner rather than later.

So that's Bob, but how will he happen? He will happen through the integration of voice-first with smarter and more powerful hearing aid chipsets, computer programming and the wonderful Bluetooth connection between hearing aids and Smartphones. As things move forward, hearing aid chipsets evolve and power delivery and battery life progress, we probably won't need that smartphone. Let's talk about the future of hearing aids.

Hearing Aids Deliver

Hearing aids are an ideal vehicle for the future of computing, especially when we factor in voice-first as a leading technology. It's simple, you wear them all the time and more importantly, they are listening all the time. The first steps will be to integrate hearing aids with technology like Siri and Google Assistant. Some smart engineers will look at integration with Alexa and probably Google Home devices.

The next step will be to free hearing aids from the phone connection. 5G and technology like it will offer us systems to connect hearing aids directly to the internet. No more phone in the middle. To do so will need bigger innovation within chipsets, power management and battery life, but the hearing aid industry is well suited to the challenge, they have been dealing with pressure just like this for a long time.

Bob is a couple of steps away, the hearing aid industry won't even have to build him. Google or Apple will build him, I will call him Bob, you may call him Carol, the name doesn't matter. The simple joy of how it will work is what matters. The first step will be to ensure hearing aids interact with voice-first through their onboard microphones and the smartphone connection. The next step will be to free hearing aids from the smartphone and deliver a direct connection to the internet. After that, hell the sky is the limit.

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Geoffrey Cooling

Geoffrey Cooling

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Geoffrey (Geoff, anything else makes him nervous) Cooling is an Irish hearing aid blogger and has been involved with the hearing aid industry since 2007. He has worked in private practice dispensing hearing aids and as a manufacturer's rep. He has written two books and they are both available on Amazon. He loves technology, passing on knowledge and is legendary for many other things, primarily the amount he curses, his dry and mischievous sense of humour and his complete intolerance of people who are full of themselves. Please feel free to connect with him.

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