Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Hearing

Honda's HEARBO can distinguish between four different types of sound simultaneously

A team led by Kazuhiro Nakadai at Honda Research Institute-Japan (HRI-JP) is improving how robots process and understand sound. The robot, aptly called HEARBO (HEARing roBOt), can parse four sounds (including voices) at once, and can tell where the sounds are coming from. The system, called HARK, could allow future robot servants to better understand verbal commands from several meters away.  Read More

An experimental ear-powered chip, with a penny for scale

Our ears work by converting the vibrations of the eardrum into electrochemical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. The current for those signals is supplied by an ion-filled chamber deep within the inner ear – it’s essentially a natural battery. Scientists are now looking at using that battery to power devices that could be implanted in the ear, without affecting the recipient’s hearing.  Read More

The prototype middle-ear microphone attached to a cadaver’s umbo (Photo: Case Western Rese...

U.S researchers are developing a tiny middle ear "microphone" that could remove the need for any external components on cochlear implants. Led by University of Utah engineer Darrin J. Young, the research team has produced and tested a prototype of the device which uses an accelerometer attached to the tiny bones of the middle ear to detect sound vibration.  Read More

earHero earphones don't block the entire ear canal, reportedly allowing users to still hea...

Conventional earphones can become a liability you are out and about on city streets by limiting your ability to hear approaching vehicles or other potential hazards. That’s where the earHero comes into play. It’s an earphone system designed not to block the ear canal so that users are still be able to hear what’s going on around them.  Read More

Scientists have developed technology that is able to reconstruct words heard by test subje...

Last September, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley announced that they had developed a method of visually reconstructing images from peoples' minds, by analyzing their brain activity. Much to the dismay of tinfoil hat-wearers everywhere, researchers from that same institution have now developed a somewhat similar system, that is able to reconstruct words that people have heard spoken to them. Instead of being used to violate our civil rights, however, the technology could instead allow the vocally-disabled to "speak."  Read More

Dr. Nicolas Stenger's microstructured polymer plate

Many of the current experimental "invisibility cloaks" are based around the same idea - light coming from behind an object is curved around it and then continues on forward to a viewer. That person is in turn only able to see what's behind the object, and not the object itself. Scientists from Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have applied that same principle to sound waves, and created what could perhaps be described as a "silence cloak."  Read More

Etymotic's ETY Kids Safe-Listening Earphones limit the volume at which children can listen...

Since the dawn of the Sony Walkman back in the 80s, audiologists have noted an increase in hearing loss among young people. With the current popularity of iPods and MP3 players, that trend shows no signs of abating. Although concerned parents can tell their children to keep the volume down on their personal music devices, such a rule can be difficult to enforce – particularly when childrens’ and parents’ ideas of “too loud” could differ significantly. Etymotic’s ETY Kids Safe-Listening Earphones, however, limit the volume to safe levels, even when cranked all the way up.  Read More

Etymotic's HD-15 High-Definition electronic earplugs let users hear normally when things a...

If you work someplace where sudden loud noises frequently but intermittently occur, it can get kind of frustrating – you pretty much have to choose between protecting your hearing with ear plugs, or being able to hear what people are saying when it isn’t noisy. Your basic earplugs, unfortunately, don’t let you hear when things are quiet, but then activate when loud noises occur. Non-basic earplugs, however, do that very thing. Etymotic Research’s HD-15 High-Definition electronic earplugs contain tiny microphones, that instantaneously cause the plugs to block incoming sound waves when they detect noises over a given threshold. When the noise has ceased, the earplugs let the user hear normally again.  Read More

The ADEL features an inflatable tip, that is said to minimize or eliminate discomfort in t...

It’s no big secret that wearing in-ear devices, such as stereo earphones or hearing aids, can cause the ears to hurt over time. According to the engineers at Colorado’s Asius Technologies, however, this isn’t due simply to a poor fit or high volume levels. Instead, it’s caused by an “acoustic reflex,” that no amount of earbud-reshaping or decreases in volume will alleviate. There are reportedly ways of minimizing or even eliminating what’s known as “listener fatigue,” though – these include a flexible membrane, and even an inflatable ear-tip device created by Asius.  Read More

The vertigo-alleviating cochlear implant

Meniere's disease is an inner ear disorder that affects about one percent of the U.S. population, and it’s a disabling condition – attacks of vertigo can occur without warning, requiring people to lay still for several hours at a time. This ever-present possibility causes sufferers to avoid certain activities, situations and even careers. Medication and lifestyle changes often alleviate it, but if they don’t then surgery is the next step, which typically depletes the hearing and/or balance functions of the affected ear. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Washington Medical Center are about to try out a new cochlear implant on their first human test subject. Their hope is that it will get rid of his symptoms, while allowing him to retain full use of both ears.  Read More

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