Chris Ashton

week11y issue 118

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last issue of week11y – work has been busy! This week is a ‘hardware special’, covering some interesting developments in the world of physical technology.

This will also be my only newsletter in June. This week, I’m getting married, and then off to Scandinavia for a couple of weeks! See you again in July 👋

Whisper’s hearing aids use AI to boost speech and reduce noise

Whisper is a startup that is developing hearing aids that self-tune over time, using AI. Traditional hearing aids require frequent adjustments, which can put people off wearing them. The CEO was inspired when his father asked to sit in a quiet corner of the café so that he could hear him properly, and he realised that he could make a difference in helping people connect better with their loved ones.

Two earpieces that take in and transmit sound are paired with a pocket-sized hub called Whisper Brain that wirelessly drives a sound separation engine. The engine’s algorithms, which were trained on a proprietary dataset, separate speech from noise in real time. Unlike traditional hearing aids, which amplify everything in a room, the engine hones in on particular sources

The system costs $139 per month at time of writing, which is less than the $179 originally quoted in the article (which was published in October 2020). Other companies are available – there are similar offerings from MicroTech, Widex and Starkey.

New sensor technology helps blind and visually impaired pedestrians avoid hazards

Intelligent Material Solutions, Inc. have patented an “intelligent material” of rare earth crystals embedded in paint or thermoplastics. The crystals can be grown to any shape or size and exhibit unique emission and absorption spectra and tuneable energy conversions.

Paired with sensors mounted or integrated with a cane, users can use a smart device to gather geolocation feedback and receive enhanced situational awareness that is far more accurate than existing technologies such as GPS.

The technology is in its early stages but could be used to guide users to public transportation, retail entrances, pavement exits and other locations.

This 3D printed controller allows you to game with one hand

This Facebook video (3 minutes) demonstrates an attachment for a standard PlayStation controller, allowing you to access all of the buttons on the device using just one hand.

The attachment was designed and 3D-printed by Akaki Kuumeri and is quite fascinating to see in action! Designs are free to download and print, but Akaki also offers fully printed and assembled versions in their Etsy store. Both left-handed and right-handed versions are available. Akaki also designs attachments for other consoles such as Xbox Series X.

Whilst it’s disappointing not to see officially supported adapters from the console manufacturers themselves, I’m pleased to see creative solutions being devised in the community.

Man Who Is Paralyzed Communicates By Imagining Handwriting

A man left quadriplegic after a freak accident has taken part in a study of a system called BrainGate2, developed at Stanford. The system relies on electrodes surgically implanted near the part of the brain that controls movement.

The man imagines writing individual characters by hand, and the computer learned to decode the distinct patterns with 95% accuracy. He can now type at a rate of 90 characters per minute.

I first covered this technology 2.5 years ago, in dai11y 25/11/2019. That system was developed at Chicago, and had a rate of around 66 characters per minute. So the technology is improving – which is fantastic. I just hope the surgically implanted hardware doesn’t go the way of the Second Sight implants and become unsupported.

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