Innovations That Matter

App visualizes and translates dangerous sounds for the hard of hearing

Sport & Fitness

The Otosense app translates sounds into visualizations, vibrations, flashes, and other cues for the deaf to see or feel. It can even be used with the Phillips Hue smart light.

Because sounds are often the first indicator of a dangerous situation, the hard of hearing are frequently forced to react late. We’ve already seen South Korean-based Moneual create the SCS1000 wristwatch, which can help those who are hard of hearing become more aware of their surroundings, but by focusing on software, our newest spotting has the potential to be of even greater use. The Otosense app translates sounds into visualizations, vibrations, flashes, and other cues for the deaf to see or feel.

The app works in a similar fashion to Shazam, but instead of identifying a song, it can match sounds against its built in library in order to work out what real-world event is occurring. Should a user suspect that a certain sound — perhaps unique to their home or place of work — won’t be present in the Otosense library, they have the option to record up to 10 sounds to be added to the existing database. The company aims to be able to support up to 50 unique sounds per user by 2015.

Once the app is installed, whenever a sound occurs that is recognized by the database — be it a fire alarm or the sound of glass breaking, for example — the software will display a customizable visual alert in real time on the user’s smartphone or tablet, with the option to introduce vibrations as well.

Crucially, an Internet connection is not required for the app to function. However, when there is a connection, any sound recorded by OtoSense on an individual’s smartphone is automatically synced with their tablet and/or other smartphones via the cloud, effectively creating a “listening network” that is capable of notifying users of dangerous events remotely.

In addition to smartphones and tablets, the app is also compatible with the Pebble smart watch and, perhaps most intriguingly, the Phillips Hue smart light. With the latter, the lights in the entire house could be made to flash or change colour in response to a dangerous sound. The mobile app is currently only for Android devices and the iOS app will be available this October. It’s free to download during the launch period.

Are there other ways where similar technology could be used in everyday situations?



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