SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- A company that makes hearing aids in the Bay Area is going to do more than improve hearing; they're using artificial intelligence to help users understand different languages.
When the TechCrunch Disrupt technology conference opened Wednesday in San Francisco, there was a lot of interest in an old device that most millennials wouldn't be caught dead with: a hearing aid.
But that may be about to change
"This is the world's first hearing aid that embeds sensors and artificial intelligence -- machine learning technologies -- to make it a multi-purpose device," said Dr. Achin Bhowmik, VP of Engineering with Starkey Hearing Technologies
The device is called the Livio AI. Besides offering state-of-the-art sound quality, it can also stream phone calls, television or music directly into someone's ears.
That sounds fun, but there's a serious purpose behind all this.
"What hearing loss often means is social isolation," explained Dr. Dave Fabry, the Chief Innovation Officer with the company.
Dr. Fabry said difficulty hearing conversation often causes people to withdraw from life. That's where this wireless mic can help.
When the wireless microphone is used, the person wearing the Livio AI can hear words clearly, even from across the room.
The dual hearing aids record movement so they can track physical activity just like a FitBit in your head. They also monitor social engagement -- time spent conversing with others, a key to maintaining brain health. GPS can help track down a lost hearing aid and motion sensors can even sense when someone has fallen.
But perhaps the most amazing function is as a translator. A person wearing the Livio AI who hears someone speaking a foreign language will have the English translation is messaged to their phone as it is being whispered into your ear.
The hearing aid used to help people understand another person. Now it is going to connect you to the world.
"You can have two-way communication, applying amplification for you," said Dr. Fabry. "Whether you have hearing loss or normal hearing, it opens up the World Wide Web right into your head!"
Starkey Hearing Technologies just started selling the Livio AI last week, but they believe it will redefine hearing aids the way the internet redefined the telephone.
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