The Ghost Pacer is the Augmented Reality Running Partner You Need to Outrun the Competition
December 9, 2020
Running with a partner doesn’t just make the run a bit less monotonous, but that sidekick also can push a training runner to step up their pace and help them hit personal fitness goals. Some runners, though, may prefer running solo while still wanting that push for accountability and competition that a partner provides. For these runners—those who pound the pavement solo—a virtual competitor may help them step up their pace and push them to their full potential. The Ghost Pacer, an augmented reality holographic running partner, is a latest development in augmented reality/virtual reality technology that may help athletes outrun their competition. GHOST PACER: RUNNING WITH A GHOST PARTNER Ghost Pacer is a “mixed reality” hologram that runs against users, but this holographic image doesn’t just pop up alongside runners. To activate the Ghost Pacer, users wear glasses that are designed to mix the real with the virtual world—in this case a virtual competitor. Runners can see and visualize all their natural surroundings, but they also see a three-dimensional hologram of a competing runner as they train. The image is a bit futuristic, but very detailed. According to the company’s website, Ghost Pacer features “30 degree AR field of view” with a holographic resolution of nearly 4,000 pixels per inch. The glasses also are noted—per the company—to be “three-times lighter than a pair of Beats headphones.” The tech isn’t going to weigh down a runner! CONTROLLING THE COMPETITION For runners who are pushing to beat their time, creating an individualized training protocol is important. Every runner has a different goal, and there are many individualized aspects that the runner must consider to meet their goals. Endurance, experience and any physical limitations may be part of the goal setting approach. Beginning runners may simply want to hit a mile goal, with no focus on how long it takes them to get there. More experienced runners may zero in on beating a specific time. Ghost Pacer is designed to meet the individualized needs and goals of each individual. Runners can program Ghost Pacer to be ahead of them, at a set speed or even push the virtual competitor to be a tougher competitor; the company’s site states that users can make the avatar more competitive with each run. Ghost Racer also includes data from Strava so runners can find recommended routes for their run. RACE YOUR FRIENDS While Ghost Pacer creates an image of a competitor, runners also can challenge their friends via the device. How does this work? According to the company, users can use their friends’ Strava data and incorporate it via their own run. If a friend ran a specific route in 20 minutes, a user can set this as the baseline for their own race. The holographic runner would then run the pace of their friend. This creates an interesting competitive setup. If an individual raced against a friend who set a difficult goal for a route, the user could use this to help them meet, exceed or just come close to this tough baseline. For runners who may lack the experience of their friends, the technology also removes the not-so-fun issues of running with a faster and more experienced friend; there is no pressure for the better runner to slow down to keep the pace of their friend, and, for the less experienced runner, the fear of not being able to keep up becomes less of an issue. The race, then, becomes all about pushing personal goals and trying to maximize individual speed and endurance. HEART & HEALTH Running boosts the heart rate; pounding the pavement gets the blood flowing and is serious aerobic exercise. Runners with access to a smartphone can download the Ghost Pacer app via their phone to help determine the best run, as the tech “analyzes your workout history to build customized workouts for you.” What isn’t clear about Ghost Pacer, though, is if it also keys into health data from an iPhone or other device. Since running is a serious workout, not only would heart rate analysis be crucial (in fairness, the app does seem to track this) but more specific data like calories consumed/burned or other individualized health parameters could also be helpful in providing runners with better tailored workouts. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-179.jpeg] THE FUTURE OF RUNNING? Is Ghost Pacer’s tech the future of running? Many runners team up with friends, colleagues or other runners to increase their stamina, improve their time and, ultimately, give them some visual accountability during their run. The technology from Ghost Pacer now can provide all runners with a partner to help maximize their competitive edge. This type of technology could be utilized in the future as a training tool in school athletic programs or maybe even professional athletic programs. With a holographic competitor pushing the individual, teams could see increases in speed and endurance. In the time of social distancing, a technology like the virtual hologram also could keep athletes safer while still pushing them to hit their personal goals. BEHIND THE GLASSES The high-tech offerings of Ghost Pacer could be the future of athletic training, but one of the most interesting takeaways of the technology is what lies behind the glasses…or, rather, who is behind the glasses. Ghost Pacer wasn’t designed by some twenty-something athletic trainer with ties to Silicon Valley. The glasses—the technology—were developed by two high school students from Lakeside High School. Lakeside might be a hidden pool of tech talent, though, as Gadget Gram pointed out that Bill Gates also was a grad. Ghost Pacer’s CEO—high schooler AbdurRahman Bhatti—also happened to be a cross-country runner, which likely fueled the development of the tech. The high school duo of AR Bhatti and Jensen Turner (who is the CTO) pulled in fellow students in designing the glasses, and, of course, also consulted with tech and fitness experts. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-180.jpeg] BEYOND AUGMENTED REALITY: HOW GHOST PACER MAY SET THE PACE Ghost Pacer is a perfect example of how augmented reality can help challenge our physical reality. While this technology sets a virtual runner into the natural world, the future could create a more dynamic competitive reality. Many runners are limited by their surroundings. A runner in the Midwest isn’t going to run past palm trees or run on a beach—these landscapes simply don’t exist in the middle of the U.S. However, future tech offerings may provide even more options for those who wish for a more dynamic route. In the future, glasses could place runners in a virtual world of their choosing. Someone in the Midwest could run along the beach, through trails in a jungle or maybe in the Serengeti. Runners could choose their own scenic pathways and enjoy parts of the world that might never have been known to them. Perhaps the race includes challenges to outrun Olympians or professional athletes. This would allow even high school competitors to feel the thrill of racing against the best, and in pushing these boundaries, also work to improve their own abilities. Future tech also may utilize the basis of Ghost Pacer in other sports. Imagine swimming goggles that project a competitor in the next lane. Or hockey players practicing against a virtual goalie. Virtual and augmented reality could enable athletes to train in unique ways and improve their abilities without the physical presence of another competitor. In a world dramatically changed by Covid, there may be a greater acceptance in the future related to virtual interaction. For so many individuals, the virtual has become integrated into our social norm. While face-to-face interaction may be the human preference, the virtual pull has become much more accepted. And, in many ways, could be the preference in many aspects of daily necessity—like online shopping. The shift to augmented and virtual reality may have happened whether we like it or not. This technology has simplified many of our most mundane habits; we now have apps that allow us to virtually preview new hairstyles and makeup. We have virtual assistants on our phones that can send texts and, with the Internet of Things, control the gadgets in our home. Now we can have virtual companions that help us train. Technology is always one step ahead of us. With Ghost Pacer, technology can outpace us or run beside us. Regardless of the programs we choose, the gadgets we use, our reliance on technology only becomes stronger, and while these virtual aids were once perceived as novelties, they are very quickly evolving into daily necessities. Ghost Pacer is the latest in new technological innovations, but it also could be a turning point. Goggles that project virtual competitors may give way to more complex holographic images. Who knows, we could cook beside professional chefs in our kitchen. Or receive soothing words of comfort from virtual wellness holograms. The creation of the virtual companion—the virtual competition—paves the way for a road of virtual and augmented reality that could transform every aspect of our lives…one step at a time.
An Overview and the Future of the Augmented & Virtual Reality Eyeglass Market
October 29, 2020
Virtual reality and augmented reality have been downloaded into our lives and are now wired into our automobiles, apps, shopping experiences, and the games we play for fun. While virtual or augmented reality is even featured in modern hearable technology, glasses and headpieces have been the ubiquitous gateway to the virtual realm. The problem? Their bulkiness was more space-age awkward than out-of-this-world chic. Now, though, major players in the tech sector are upgrading basic eyewear with virtual features, and the future of the augmented and virtual reality eyeglass market illustrates how this technology will change the way we see the world. According to Forbes Business Insights, the augmented reality market is projected to swell to more than $65 billion by 2027. While the augmented reality glasses sector hasn’t necessarily dominated the market, this sector is expected to grow exponentially by 2027—with reports predicting 31 million units by 2027. Currently, the options for augmented reality glasses (vs. more basic ‘smart glasses’) are a bit limited for the average consumer. The future for this sector, though, is promising, and major players in the tech industry may be eyeing their options for smart eyewear and other types of eyeglasses that incorporate virtual reality or augmented reality. Here’s an overview of augmented and virtual reality in this market, a glimpse back at the past of virtual and augmented reality eyewear, and an eye on the future, too. AMAZON ECHO FRAMES Leading the tech pack, industry giant Amazon released its own smart glasses and introduced the world to its Echo Frames. These glasses don’t feature augmented reality elements in the sense that wearing them takes the user into any type of augmented or mixed reality world, but the frames are a game changer because of their Alexa compatibility. Echo Frames communicate with Alexa, and all the gadgets the virtual assistant may control within the home. Wearing the frames gives the user the power to command Alexa to send messages, make phone calls, or even perhaps brew the coffee. According to Amazon, the frames also only work for the specific user’s voice. This feature, Amazon notes, ensures privacy. It could also possibly deter thieves, as voice control—theoretically—wouldn’t allow another individual to take control of the glasses. RAY-BAN X FACEBOOK? Facebook announced that it would release its own pair of smart glasses in 2021, and the company’s new product “will have Ray-Ban branding.” No details about the capabilities were announced, but Tech Crunch noted that the glasses might not have full augmented reality features. The Verge reported that the glasses “…will not have an integrated display of any kind.” However, numerous sites—including The Verge—reported that Facebook may have eyes on a true augmented reality pair of glasses in the future. VUZIX BLADE Vuzix, however, offers a true pair of augmented reality glasses. The glasses feature capabilities that mix multiple tech elements into chic frames. Blade includes a camera, speakers as well as voice control. Augmented reality features for these glasses include the incorporation of digital instructions over daily tasks. Tom’s Guide reviewed the glasses and explained more about the tech features; users can see notifications from social media and read comments via their glasses, they can also view the weather forecast, receive messages from their phone, play a game and read lyrics to songs. EPSON MOVERIO Moverio glasses look more sleek, contemporary, and futuristic than the Blade. Think Max Headroom! However, the Moverio glasses are offered in numerous models; there is a model aimed at augmented reality developers (it is geared for pros creating AR apps for eyewear), another for flying a drone, one model is extra durable for industrial sectors, a model that heightens “visitor experiences,” and several other designs. With all the options, what type of Moverio is designed for the everyday user? Tom’s Guide discussed several augmented reality glasses on the market including the Moverio BT-30C, which, the Guide explains, allows users to view videos via a virtual screen that appears before the eyes. Moverio’s site describes this model as featuring a “Wearable display” that plugs into smartphones and tech devices via a USB. BOSE ALTO Sound and vision merge with Bose Alto. These smart glasses incorporate the clear Bose sound quality with…well…sunglasses. While not true augmented reality, the glasses are capable of streaming music and allowing users to take calls and communicate with virtual assistants like Siri. These are the glasses to wear on the beach and chill out while listening to favorite tunes, but users shouldn’t expect advanced capabilities like pulling up visions of weather forecasts. SPECTACLES BY SNAPCHAT Facebook may have augmented reality in its future, but Snapchat Spectacles combined vision with visionary. Spectacles are exactly what many Snap users would want in app compatible eyewear. These glasses include dual cameras that are perfect for capturing 3D ‘snaps’ and videos, too. Videos taken via these glasses also can be shared to YouTube VR. As these glasses were created by Snapchat, it would make sense that the app also offers 3D effects for images snapped with the glasses. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-111.jpeg] SPORTS-ENHANCING AUGMENTED REALITY EYEWEAR While augmented reality and smart glasses are often marketed to the typical consumer, there are companies that have developed eyewear specifically for sports and competitive athletes. Augmented reality has the capability to revolutionize training and to enhance an athlete’s competitive edge. Check out these glasses designed for swimmers, cyclists, and runners. VUZIX SMART SWIM® Smart goggles for swimmers don’t yet offer the option to project a virtual competitor in the next lane of the pool, but Vuzix has designed technology made for goggles that provide data and feedback for competitive swimmers. The Smart Swim® device (for the pool) connects the coach to the swimmer, shows times for each lap, records workouts, and more; the device also is offered for open water, and, according to the company’s site, this model includes info on pace, yardage, distance as well as other data. EVERYSIGHT RAPTOR These augmented reality glasses are designed specifically for cyclists. The Raptor allows cyclists to snap photos and videos, receive emails/texts and listen to music. According to the company’s web site, the Raptor also provides navigation (including maps) and also offers training programs. Raptor features Everysight BEAM™ technology, an augmented reality projection display. SOLOS WEARABLES Wearables provide data for cyclists in front of their eyes. Solos Wearables include run time, direction, heart rate, speed and power data. The glasses ensure that the race is never interrupted, with data available at all times. While Wearables were designed with cyclists in mind, they also can be used for runners too. Yes, these glasses also display missed phone calls! GHOST PACER Designed by two high school students, Ghost Pacer is the ultimate in virtual and augmented reality for runners. The glasses display a virtual running partner that can be set to outpace the user or maintain the runner’s own speed. Data can be sent to Strava and users also can race friends by utilizing run data from Strava. If a friend ran 13 miles in two hours, users can program this data into Ghost Pacer to create a virtual competitor whose speed is set utilizing these stats. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-112.jpeg] LOOKING BACK AT THE PAST: VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY EYEWEAR RELICS While the choices of augmented reality eyewear products for the average consumer are somewhat limited, the selection was even more limited in past decades when this technology was just taking off in the consumer market. When we visualize virtual reality eyewear, we usually think of big bulky headsets. These massive headpieces were once the norm when users wished to enter the virtual world. Large headsets were used to project training simulations in various industries—like aviation—but headsets also were standard in virtual reality games. The earliest types of virtual reality date back to large panoramic paintings that depicted a full view of a particular scene. Generations later, consumers (including children) enjoyed a very humble version of virtual reality—the View-Master. These handheld devices allowed users to view images that seemingly came to life. A small disc contained numerous images that were changed as the user clicked a switch on the side of the device. Image discs could include popular cartoon characters or even animals. As the user clicked, the action appeared before their eyes. In the early ‘90s, game giant Sega introduced its virtual reality glasses. While this could have been the early introduction that gamers needed to really latch onto the virtual reality concept, these glasses unfortunately never hit the market. In 1995, Nintendo released a console with a virtual concept. Virtual Boy had a bit of a confusing name, as Nintendo’s Gameboy was the well-known handheld console. Virtual Boy wasn’t handheld, instead it was set atop a movable stand. Graphics were 3D and images were viewed by looking into the console; at the time, 3D graphics for a gaming console were a big deal. The console was sold at stores for $180, but the concept didn’t catch on with the public. Many years after the simple View-Master and the missed opportunities by Sega and Nintendo, Google Glass represented one of the better known mainstream attempts at augmented/virtual reality eyewear. Unfortunately, the design wasn’t incredibly streamlined and there were reported issues of privacy concerns—in fact Investopedia reported that bars sometimes banned the devices (which featured a camera). The insanely high sticker price also didn’t help sales or popularity. The Oculus Rift, which was launched in 2012, is still popular for its virtual reality headset design. However, you won’t find the average person wandering around town donning a Rift. These headsets plug into PCs and are popular among gamers…and perhaps even designers, too. The Rift is meant to transport users to the virtual realm, and its design—while streamlined—is still the traditional headset. The evolving concept of virtual reality headsets also has peered into design processes within various business sectors, including the automotive industry. Microsoft’s Hololens is a mixed reality headset that is used by businesses across many industries. Notably, Volvo partnered with Microsoft to use Hololens during the design process and became the first automotive company to utilize this technology in its “engineering toolkit.” During the Covid lockdowns, Ford’s executives also used virtual reality to preview design concepts. And, while the headsets remain a bit traditional in design, the graphics displayed within those headsets have transformed from pixelated obscurity to become a concise and precise replica of reality. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-113.jpeg] AN EYE ON FUTURE DESIGNS Smart eyewear and eyeglasses that incorporate virtual and augmented reality will likely become more commonplace. As new designs are introduced, the technology they offer also will become more diverse. While smartglasses incorporate virtual assistants, it is quite possible that newer glasses that feature virtual reality could take the virtual assistant into our eye line. Siri, Alexa, and Cortana don’t have a visual identity. But, in the future, they could appear to us as holograms. Maybe the user—the wearer of smart glasses—gets to control how these assistants appear. They could look like the user, a friend, a celebrity, or maybe future offerings will allow the user to design the image from a menu of options. Build your own virtual assistant! Industry leaders are not likely to give away their designs and ideas for future offerings. So what virtual or augmented reality features are included in new smart glasses are in the hands of designers and programmers. Visualizing messages, weather, and even maps, though, may be obvious augmented reality features. Looking at current eyewear products that feature augmented reality elements may be a predictor of what the future holds for newer products designed for the average consumer. However, each company may have its unique take on product design. Major players in the industry also would (hopefully!) want to ensure that a new offering would be compatible with other company products. For example, the Apple Watch typically can pair with many iPhone models. Consumer demand also may play a role in the design and functions of augmented reality eyewear. If the average person cannot understand how a product will benefit them or their lives, they likely won’t be willing to invest money into making a purchase. Glasses may need to enhance everyday tasks, simplify the mundane, and enrich the tech experience. And, of course, privacy issues cannot be an issue. Users likely don’t want to worry that the camera is watching them, that their data is being shared, or that their every move is being tracked. Businesses also probably wouldn’t be thrilled about having customers wearing cameras attached to their eyewear. Moving forward and peeking into the future of virtual and augmented reality eyewear, companies need to be cognizant of what didn’t land in the past. Gimmicks and fads also don’t always translate to sustainable sales; the future offerings need to help users simplify their lives, help guide their daily tasks, and enhance and enrich the tech experience. The most successful products also will likely sync to social media; Snapchat’s glasses, for example, helped enhance the user experience via the app. Perhaps this type of functionality needs to be inclusive of all future eyewear that boasts augmented capabilities. Augmented reality eyewear could transport users into social media sites, transforming the two-dimensional realm into a face-to-face experience. Perhaps these glasses could allow users to interact virtually via glasses. Maybe a post can turn into a real conversation. Perhaps a like becomes a real-life thumbs-up instead of an icon. The future of smart and augmented reality eyewear designs might be blurred in mystery, but the vision is clear and perhaps even…rose-tinted.
The Future of Hearable Technology
October 16, 2020
Virtual and augmented reality advancements in our phones, computers, tablets, and even the tech within our vehicles means that our devices are now verbally and visually communicating to us around the clock. The future of hearable technology is as open as the future of technology itself. While many of us view our headphones or earphones as just the little speakers that we can plug into our ears to personalize our auditory experience, these small extensions of our devices have the potential to become…smart. Incredibly smart, actually. New auditory advancements are turning up the volume on what we once considered to be mere accessories to our major devices. Now hearable devices are becoming must-have gadgets independent of phones, tablets or music players. Here are some predictions as to what the future holds for your ears…and even some technology that failed to grab our ear. Listen up! HOW DO YOU USE HEARABLE DEVICES NOW? When we try to comprehend how we will use hearable tomorrow, next year and in the far off future, it’s interesting to look back at how this technology has evolved in our daily lives. Most of us probably conceived of hearable tech as simple headphones or earphones. Maybe a friend or family member utilized hearing aids and that technology became familiar. The evolution of hearable tech has creeped up on us…almost silently, even though we were always listening. Earphones now stream movies. We listen to podcasts. We also use our earphones or headphones to keep teleconferences private. Headsets have integrated microphones that are used for conferencing or even social experiences like gaming. Throughout the decades, sound quality has improved, headphones have become less cumbersome, and technology has advanced. In the ‘80s, we may have listened to our favorite tunes while donning the foam covered earpieces that were ubiquitous to the Walkman. In the new millennium, maybe a new pair of Beats headphones changed the way we heard music. Now, our phones often feature tiny earphones with incredible sound quality. Some of these earpieces are even wireless. But not all hearable tech has revolutionized our lives. Some new discoveries had amazing potential to transform daily life but simply didn’t grab our attention…or our wallets. THE HEARABLE FUTURE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN Back in 2017, Wired reported on Doppler Labs’ eventual demise. Doppler had produced earphones that cancelled out noise, amplified a speaker’s voice and even translated foreign languages for the listener. Its product seemed promising, but it simply didn’t catch on in the way that Apple’s Airpods and other products did with the general public. The features of the earphones, though, showed the potential of this sector of technology. Translating foreign speakers to ease communications may be a solution that many business leaders could demand in future hearable devices. During the worst days of the Covid pandemic, most businesses were working from home. Hearable technology with translations built in could have been a beneficial accessory that reduced the need for translators…or perhaps written on-screen translations. While new tech that features translation capabilities might not be in the very near future, major players in the market are looking to introduce new–and improved–hearable tech. WHAT YOU MIGHT HEAR SOON: HEARABLE TECH OF THE FUTURE The future of hearable tech encompasses the near future…and the far off future, too. While some media can speculate about new products that may hit the market soon, most can only guess as to what the far off future holds for hearable technology. For those looking to upgrade their ears to the latest new headphones or earphones, there are new hearable tech products that will soon be hitting the market. In fact, the anticipation for Apple’s Airpods3 has been bustling on the internet. Unfortunately, no one knows when Apple may release the updated AirPods. And tech experts also can only guess as to what new features they might include. Apple AirPods2 featured wireless charging capabilities and Siri functions, too. A visual concept of the Apple AirPods Studio earphones, however, has apparently leaked, according to techradar. These new headphones will be over-the-ear versus the traditional bud in the ear design. The features have not been disclosed, and details were not provided by Apple but came from a “reputable leaker.” EAR FOR THE FUTURE? A POSSIBLE SMARTPHONE HEARING PIECE This isn’t a hearing aid in an assistive technology definition, but Fast Company reported that major companies like Apple, Google and Amazon are all in the midst of developing their own unique hearing aids that take convenience directly to the ear. However, what these hear pieces will feature is anyone’s best guess. Fast Company posited that they could track oxygen saturation and even count steps—this theory was linked to the fact that all three companies have plans to enter the healthcare sector. Of course, as the article noted, all three of these companies offer ‘virtual assistants’– Google has Google Assistant, Amazon offers Alexa and Apple devices utilize Siri. These virtual assistants have the potential to be intricately intertwined with our daily lives and habits. AMAZON AND ALEXA If Amazon did release some type of hearable technology, the features could be amazing! Imagine if Amazon released a hearable tech that utilizes Alexa. This could mean that the earpiece could pick up commands and the user could interact with Alexa with just a small hearing aid like device. WHAT COULD ALEXA DO WITH A HEARABLE? * Perhaps the user could place orders via Amazon remotely. “Alexa, order my Vitamin C supplement.” * The earpiece could help turn off lights, brew coffee or control anything Alexa-powered. * Alexa, track my order for Dog Food and alert me when it’s on it’s way. APPLE AND SIRI Apple could build smart tech into the airpods so they can connect to Siri and follow through on actions. If Siri is always in your ear, then you can maintain two way communication between your smartphone and Siri. * “Siri, remind me to call my mom,” all of a sudden becomes feasible. * “Siri, create a calendar appointment for my doctor at 3pm tomorrow”. * Maybe the user could surf via Safari and hear the results or use the earpiece to send texts or even teleconference. It’s interesting to think about what these technology giants could introduce into the world…and how new hearing technology could ease our daily interactions. All major tech players–Apple, Amazon, Microsoft (we can’t forget Cortana!) and Google–also could integrate the Internet of Things into earpieces. Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant and Alexa could control everything in the house…from the ear! Anything in the home that could connect to these virtual assistants could stream into our ear. Smart appliances utilize these assistants, so imagine sitting in a home office and having Alexa tell you that your oven is preheated. Or that the dishwasher has finished a cycle. No time to take the clothes out of the dryer? Tell the virtual assistant via the earpiece to start the dryer for a fluff cycle. Hearable technology features from tech giants are simply speculative at this point. Until Apple, Amazon or Google make any type of formal announcement, most of us can simply ponder and wonder about what our ears, coupled with voice technology, may control in the future. However, hearable technology developed for individuals with hearing impairments already allows some wearers to control the Internet of Things via the ear! [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-89.jpeg] PREDICTING THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY TO ASSIST INDIVIDUALS WITH HEARING IMPAIRMENTS Hearables as used as assistive communication devices have their own unique demands for advancement. As technology becomes more intertwined with our daily lives, those who depend on hearing aids to communicate also need to be able to access their phones and devices in the same way as other users. However, putting a phone receiver—even the smartphone—up to the hearing-aided ear can be cumbersome. Phones not only can accommodate hearing aid devices but many also can allow these devices to connect to features to stream music, movies and everything else directly into the hearing aid. Most devices also can connect to hearing aids via Bluetooth. Some hearing aid manufacturers–including Widex and Phonak–even offer apps that allow users to modify their hearing aids via their phone. The user simply logs into the hearing aid app and can change different settings or even review data (depending on the app’s capabilities and functions). There are numerous hearing aid manufacturers and hearing aid models. Some offer advanced capabilities, others aren’t quite as high tech (especially earlier hearing aid models). Some models even allow users to connect into the Internet of Things via an app (and by utilizing the If This, Then That service); this alerts users that someone is at the door or when the wash cycle has completed! Hearing centers that provide diagnostic services for those with hearing loss also have their own predictions on the future may hold for hearable technology. Connect Hearing talked to several of its own hearing specialists about what the future for hearing aids. Over the years, this technology has advanced tremendously. Hearing aids—in very early times—were once large trumpet-like devices that were placed in the ear. Today’s hearing aids, though, can connect wirelessly to Bluetooth devices and can even be used with smartphones. Jody Progue, an audiologist for Connect Hearing in Denton, Texas, told the company that newer hearing aids may become even more convenient for users, allowing easy access to most devices. “I anticipate we’ll also see more universality, such as hearing aids that connect directly to any device via plug-and-play,” said Progue on the Connect Hearing site. “New hearing aids like the Phonak Audéo B Direct, they are truly hands-free. To answer the phone, all a user needs to do is press a button on the hearing aid and say ‘hello’.” When Connect Hearing asked the experts “What will hearing technology look like in five years?,” the hearing specialists had some almost space age predictions! “Artificial intelligence will be integrated into hearing testing and fittings,” John Cummings, a hearing instrument specialist for Connect Hearing in Baltimore, Md., said on the company’s site. “This will improve the overall product offerings and reduce costs as more of the global population accepts and purchases them. Users will also be able to seamlessly connect with the most cutting-edge fitness products.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-90.jpeg] IMAGINE THE SOUNDS IN THE FAR-OFF FUTURE If the near future could bring us hearable devices that might utilize voice assistants like Siri or Alexa, the far-off future could involve virtual or even other types of augmented reality. Perhaps hearing aids allow us to navigate our self driving cars by connecting into the vehicle. Or maybe the ear devices pick up our instructions and graphically display our commands via holograms or augmented scenes. Could Wikipedia evolve from a simple web site to a holographic interactive virtual realm that takes us into history…via our ear devices? Perhaps our hearable devices contain our personal information or even our financial accounts and our hearable technology will be able to transmit this information securely to other devices to make purchases, appointments or perform other services. The size of hearable tech may change, too. We’ve watched as smartphones have become sleeker in design; while phone screens may constantly increase in size, diminutive hearables may be a major demand for those who want to avoid a clumsy and cumbersome earpiece. Earphones may become incredibly tiny and might even become personalized to the wearer. We may, one day, be fitted with our hearable tech. As technology overtakes our physical reality, our imagination can go wild thinking of all the possibilities. The minds of programmers and engineers, however, may discover and create worlds, ideas and software that will jolt us into a new age, an advanced tech renaissance. Twenty years ago, we couldn’t imagine a cell phone that would allow us to access shopping, banking, movies, music and the internet. Now our smartphones manage everything, and, of course, they make basic phone calls, too. Tonight, tomorrow when you plug in your earphones or headphones, imagine all the new features those phones may offer next year. Or five years from now. In the future, there’s no telling what we might hear. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-6.png]
Hearing the World with Augmented Reality
October 2, 2020
Visual wearables are the most well-known type of this growing technology, most notably for the flop that was Google Glass. But, hearables are taking over as the hot new trend in augmented reality. From real-time navigation to responsive voice-enabled search features, in-ear devices are small, discreet, and easy to bring with you everywhere you go. Read on to learn how auditory wearable tech has grown within the AR sphere, and why experts expect that this technology is here to stay. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-65.jpeg] AUGMENTED REALITY VS. VIRTUAL REALITY Virtual reality has long used audio and visual elements to transport users to a completely manufactured digital world. Augmented reality, on the other hand, combines digital elements with the user’s real-world view. When it comes to the future of AR-enabled hearables, this distinction is important to understand because both technologies provide entirely different experiences for the user. As a result of the changes caused by COVID-19, much of the American workforce will be working from home for the foreseeable future. This has created a growing demand for smart hearables, which give remote workers additional flexibility. Common uses for smart aural wearables include: * Hands-free calling * Voice-activated web searching * Noise cancellation * Improved multitasking More advanced models are adapting their technology to act as a secondary “set of ears” for the wearer, from automatic Google searches to real-time language translation. Using hearables as a pathway for augmented reality tech creates an extra layer of insight into the information the wearer is already taking in. AI and interconnectivity with the internet of things gives users an unprecedented level of access, without the need for auxiliary equipment. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-66.jpeg] USES FOR AUGMENTED REALITY One of the most critical components of a successful augmented reality system is seamless interconnectivity. Excessive lag time or lack of compatibility between practical and digital objects can make the AR experience clunky and impossible to navigate. To ensure a fluid connection between the digital and real worlds, augmented reality-enabled wearables use one of two methods to distribute information. CUSTOMIZED CONTENT Did you know that advertisers often collect location information to create tailored experiences for different users? Using this feature, wearables provide brands with the perfect way to build individualized ad campaigns that users will enjoy and, as a result, engage with more. Everything from radio commercials to social media ads use demographic information to appeal to a specific audience. Since more and more consumers are preferring interactive media like music, audiobooks, podcasts, and video, in-ear devices provide the perfect platform for location-specific content. We’re spending more time than ever before on digital communication. As augmented reality gains more traction in the mainstream market, brands are already starting to capitalize on this segmentation tool. SPEECH RECOGNITION Absorbing audio information from the outside environment makes it possible for these devices to recognize, and subsequently, translate spoken language in real time. But, this is not the only use case for in-ear smart devices. Wearable audio devices are also used to aid computers in collecting and processing phonetic speech. Siphoning sounds present in spoken language allows artificial intelligence to build its digital knowledge base and “learn” about user behaviors. VIRTUAL ENTERTAINMENT Unfortunately, COVID-19 has quashed many of our travel plans this year. But, what if you could visit a world-famous art museum from your couch? Using immersive media via augmented reality, this technology is being applied for virtual entertainment. Similar to visual AR methods, hearable in-ear devices allow the reader to experience media with even more depth and engagement. Augmented reality allows these devices to incorporate auditory assisting in real time, such as supplementary information and synced music, using tools like: * Geo-location tracking * Activity monitoring/idle timekeeping * Device interconnectivity Wearables are growing in popularity as people look for more innovative ways to simplify their routines. Augmented reality provides an effective solution by following the user throughout their day, acting as a digital fly on the wall. While standard mobile assistants can provide some level of support, in-ear wearables keep the user connected 24/7, no matter their physical location. IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY FOR MOBILE USERS Being able to layer digital audio elements over sounds that are being transmitted in real time makes mobile computing even more accessible for various users. This capability allows the individual to maintain a high level of control over this aspect of their sensory response. With augmented reality powering internet-enabled devices, the user can adjust the amount of external noise they’d like to take in. Additionally, they can control the sound levels of their AI assistant, incoming calls, background music, and more. For those who are especially sensitive to sensory overload, the incorproate of smart technology into hearable devices addresses a common and widespread gap in the market. MOBILE DEVICE COMPATIBILITY AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS Thanks to the IoT, mobile device users across all platforms, brands, and industries can keep their digital lives connected and running smoothly. This has made it easier than ever for wearable developers to tap into an exponentially growing consumer market. Hearing aids, for example, can the Internet of Things to improve the user’s safety by providing round-the-clock monitoring. If the device picks up interruptions in the user’s heart rate, breathing, it can use this data to make “informed” decisions about the person’s health. Audible devices use sensors, voice commands, contextual information, and auxiliary digital content to create a functional digital world that is accessible from anywhere, at any time. Instead of fully immersive VR programs that require reality-altering glasses or headsets, in-ear devices can apply augmented reality features over external noise and speech. From measuring interactions to new medications to notifying emergency services about a fall or accident, interconnected wearable technology has the potential to make the world safer and more secure for all individuals. PRACTICAL REAL-WORLD USES Safety is one of the primary catalysts to the development of this revolutionary system of technology. By reducing distractions and providing information seamlessly with the user’s day to day life. Interacting with real information in real time helps IoT-enabled devices to “learn” about the world through the ears of the user. Construction workers, for example, can apply this technology to stay alert and on task with in-ear alerts and hands-free notifications. This same functionality can keep workers safe by predicting dangerous situations and making the user aware of dangers like nearby ledges, heavy loads, and even personal injury from over exertion. With cloud-based connectivity and inter-device compatibility, in-ear tech can also utilize biometric data to keep the user safe and secure. POWER AND UTILITIES SUPPORT How are utility providers using the same technology that Snapchat uses to put freckles on its users? Turns out, auditory and visual components in the AR sphere have a significant amount of overlap. Power companies are using this development to improve their services. By siphoning user data related to their individual behaviors throughout the day, utility companies can use hearable tech to understand the behavior of their customers. Using this information, providers can create individualized service plans for both parties to save money and energy in the process. When it comes to task automation, in-ear tech is also helping companies save money by reducing project redundancies and improving efficiency on part of the technicians. Thanks to total hands-free access, in-ear devices make multitasking safer and more effective. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-67.jpeg] BIOMETRIC CONNECTIVITY FOR HEALTH APPLICATIONS Many of us already have biometric features in our smartphones, but hearables are taking this accessibility up a notch. Using biometric information such as movement, heart rate, and breathing patterns, AI-connected in-ear devices can learn about our individual habits to provide tailored, individualized health solutions. These futuristic devices are more intuitive than your standard heart rate monitor. Some manufacturers are already using photoplethysmography, which measures small changes in light reflectivity to gauge the wearer’s pulse and blood pressure. This development is also making wearable technology more comfortable by eliminating the need for additional equipment like wristbands and bulky sensors. Wearable technology is quickly becoming a wardrobe staple for just about everyone, for a variety of reasons from health to productivity. In-ear tech has the potential to completely change the way we live by reducing external distractions, improving sensory intake, and simplifying daily processes safely. With wearable technology becoming more mainstream and accessible than ever before, staying tapped into the web all day long is becoming a growing facet of daily life. Consumers are relying on augmented reality images and media to enhance and improve their day-to-day routines, and wearables are leading this dynamic market. If you’re looking for a way to give your multitasking skills a boost, these are just a few reasons why augmented reality is making waves within the auditory wearable industry.
Hearable Tech Trends Amplify the Future of Sound
August 30, 2020
Hearing aids and auditory devices once were extremely cumbersome; the earliest hearing aids were large trumpet-like instruments that one held into the ear, but these devices eventually became more manageable, as hearing devices were developed that fit into the ear canal. These models weren’t discreet, and their auditory amplification also was neither ideal nor perfect. However, the hearing aid eventually evolved into the behind-the-ear model we recognize today. Today’s hearing aids feature cutting edge technology that can seemingly disappear behind the ear and even tap into smartphones and other devices. Hearable tech trends amplify the future of hearing aids and will help erase the stigma faced by those who are diagnosed with hearing loss. Unfortunately, earlier hearing aid models—even those a few decades ago—weren’t so visually appealing, and their appearance likely contributed to the stigma faced by those who experienced hearing loss, especially children. Older adults, however, may still equate a hearing impairment to a fragility of old age and view hearing aids as an inherent and outward social weakness. HEARING AIDS FOR CHILDREN: EN VOGUE & A NEW MOLD For children, the visual aspect of hearing aids may be associated with an aversion to wear them. Many kids want to fit into their peer group, and any difference—even slight—may cause a child to feel stigmatized or ostracized. Pediatric hearing aids come in several designs: behind-the-ear (BTE) models, canal aids (fit in the ear canal), in the ear aids (these tuck in the ear) and body hearing aids (for “profound hearing loss”). An audiologist may recommend a certain design or model that would work best for the child. Hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual; some children may be born with hearing loss and the extent may be severe, but others may suffer mild hearing loss or experience hearing loss from medication. Hearing loss also may involve only sounds on a range of frequencies (perhaps high frequency). The hearing aid must be able to meet the auditory needs of the child. Today’s hearing aids for kids, however, partner advanced technology with a streamlined appearance. While hearing aids of the past had to be manually adjusted, today’s models are plugged into a computer and adjusted digitally by a technician. The sound quality also has greatly improved. The appearance also can be controlled by kids. Like glasses, in-canal and BTE hearing aids now come in a variety of colors. When children visit an audiologist for hearing aids, they often can choose from a rainbow of hues for the actual hearing aid. For BTE models, kids also can choose a favorite hue for the hearing aid hook. Even the ear molds (for BTE) can be customized. Kids can swirl together up to three different colors to create an ear mold that fits their style…and matches their personality. Color combos can be bold and neon, pastel or even clear and conservative. Since children’s ears grow as they do, they can change their molds and their mold designs frequently. Charms also can be added to decorate hearing aids. The sound quality of pediatric hearing aids, though, is what has evolved the most throughout the years. Many models connect wirelessly and are compatible with Apple and Android smartphones. These tech-savvy hearing devices can be used to listen to music or television shows by bringing the audio into the hearing aid; teens also can stream phone calls into their hearing aids! ASSISTED TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM & BEYOND As hearing aid technology has advanced, so, too, has assisted technology for these devices. FM systems are used by kids and adults to assist in hearing lectures, church services, class lessons and other activities. FM systems work by utilizing a microphone (provided to the speaker) to bring their voice directly into the hearing aid. This bypasses the issue of background noise, which can distract the listener’s attention. While hearing aids have advanced both in their design and their auditory capabilities, when frequencies are adjusted and amplified by the aids to increase hearing, other sounds may be amplified as well. A hearing impaired child sitting in a classroom may hear their teacher but become distracted by the amplified sounds of rustling paper, whispering or other background noises. Utilizing an FM system allows the child (or adult) to clearly hear the voice—and the pertinent information—over all the noise. Even FM systems have become incredibly tech savvy. Some now include touch-screen receivers. Other tools, like Phonak’s Roger Pen microphone also connect into a specific hearing aid model. The microphone works a bit like an FM, bringing a speaker’s voice directly into the hearing device. Users also can connect the microphone to a television or other entertainment device. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-11.jpeg] HEARING AIDS FOR ADULTS Many manufacturers design models that can be used by both children and adults (although size and colors may differ). Like children, adult hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual. Depending on the amount of hearing loss, an audiologist may have a specific hearing aid recommendation. While children may want a fun and colorful hearing aid, adults may stick to conservative hues. Many hearing aids for adults are compatible with smartphones, connecting to devices through Bluetooth. Adults also may utilize other assistive technology that works with their hearing aid. High-tech table-top microphones can be used in work meetings and can identify when a speaker has changed, adjusting the audio accordingly. Other microphones can transmit audio from the television or other devices. HEAR EVERYTHING, SEE NOTHING While many hearing aid models are visible, some are so tiny that they are imperceptible. These hearing aids fit directly into the ear where they can’t be seen. However, as manufacturer Starkey notes, they might not be for everyone. Individuals with poor fine motor function may find them difficult to place or to remove. Like other models, the invisible hearing aids also can be used to stream music and television shows. AUDITORY APPS FOR HEARING AIDS Hearing aid manufacturers also often provide an app that links to the hearing aid. These apps allow users to take control of their hearing aids and adjust sound for their needs. Widex offers the TONELINK™ app, and Phonak offers the myPhonak app for its models. However, other hearing aid manufacturers may offer their own apps, too. TONELINK™ allows users to control volume and change hearing aid programs. The app also provides users with the option to control the direction of sound to the hearing aid and even mute sound. Phonak’s app can connect the user to their audiologist, and help prompt any sound adjustments. The app also allows users to create a Hearing Diary so users can document their daily auditory experiences—like “speech understanding” and “sound quality.” The app also tracks how long the hearing aids were used each day. The development of these apps might seem like a given in our tech-savvy world. Apps, after all, are nothing new. However, what these apps represent to those who rely on hearing aids in their day-to-day activities shows the incredible advancement in technology in a matter of years. Controlling hearing aid volume was once a task that either had to be done by an audiologist (or hearing professional) or the individual by hand…and sometimes this simple adjustment required bringing out a tiny screwdriver. Now technology has placed much of the control in the hands of the wearer, and simple adjustments are a virtual endeavor. Download the app, connect the hearing aids and take control of the sound. For an individual who was born with a hearing impairment, the app provides more autonomy and less reliance on the medical community for a simple volume adjustment. HEARING IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT? When hearing aids became linked to apps and mobile software, they also were outfitted to work on the go. In our cars, the computer also has taken control. Smartphones link to our vehicles, and entertainment systems now allow us to stream our music, take phone calls and send quick texts. This gets a bit tricky with hearing aids. Phonak notes that their devices don’t connect with Bluetooth functions in the car. However, since the hearing aids pair with mobile devices, users may simply decide to keep their phone synced up to their hearing aids instead of the car system. Others may switch their phones to connect into the car. Connectivity preferences depend on the individual. HEARING AIDS AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS Hearing aids have gone so tech-savvy that some models will even pair up with the Internet of Things. The Hearing Review reported in 2016 that the Oticon Opn hearing aid was the first Internet of Things hearing aid. Oticon’s offerings are beyond what most would assume hearing aids can do—these hearing aids take tech to the next level. Via the Oticon ON app, users can link their hearing aids to many connective devices throughout their home. This means that the wearer will receive messages via their hearing aid that the laundry is finished or someone is at the door; Oticon’s site notes that lights and the thermostat can be adjusted when the hearing aids are turned off…or on. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-12.jpeg] BEYOND HEARING AIDS: COCHLEAR IMPLANTS One of the biggest medical innovations in hearing technology was the cochlear implant; the first implant was placed in 1961. According to Johns Hopkins, cochlear implants may be an option when hearing aids aren’t providing enough auditory assistance. The implant “is a small electronic device that electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve.” However, external parts are part of the cochlear implant, too. How do these devices work? A microphone portion of the device sits behind the ear to receive audio, which sends the sounds to the internal implant. Johns Hopkins explains: “The internal part is placed under the skin behind the ear during an outpatient surgery. A thin wire and small electrodes lead to the cochlea, which is part of the inner ear. The wire sends signals to the cochlear nerve, which sends sound information to the brain to produce a hearing sensation.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-13.jpeg] HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY…FOR EVERYONE! Hearable technology in the world of audiology may focus on hearing aids and other devices to help with hearing impairments, but hearing technology is used by everyone…everyday. And, just like hearing aids, the hearing technology we use has evolved incredibly. HEADPHONES We can credit Nathaniel Baldwin for audio headphones; he invented them way back in 1910. Stuff TV notes, though, that it was John Koss who gave us the stereo headphones we know and love. These headphones were invented in 1958…a few years after Elvis began exploding on the radio. As stereo equipment and sound quality developed, headphones likely evolved, too. In 1979, Sony introduced a headphone game-changer: the Walkman. The portable cassette player allowed teens to play their favorite music without the neighbors complaining. The Walkman evolved into the Discman, which, of course, played CDs but still had the same concept. Like its predecessor, the Discman let individuals take their music on the go. These portable players made roadtrips, walks and runs so much more enjoyable back in the 80s and 90s. As compact discs were discarded for music downloads, the CD players we knew and loved—and the headphones that let us listen—became obsolete. Instead, the mp3 player took over. And later the smartphone. Music was digital and hearing technology evolved from foamy headphones to tiny earphones with incredible sound quality. Later, those earphones were stripped of cumbersome cords and received audio wirelessly. In 2006, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine introduced a line of headphones called Beats that were renowned for their audio quality. Beats products were so successful that Apple purchased the company in 2014. The Beats line now includes wireless earphones and headphones as well as speakers. THE MIC IS ON…THE HEADPHONES As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country and shut down businesses, many industries pivoted office environments to work-from-home virtual spaces. Videoconferencing became the norm, and many employees likely used hearing technology in these meetings. Headphones equipped with microphones allowed many at-home workers to drown out background noise (like kids!) while participating in meetings, interviews and conferences. Many of these headphones are equipped with Bluetooth to sync up to devices. THE FUTURE OF HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY? While hearing aids may have some limitations, the future of hearing technology will probably lead to incredible advancements in user control and connectivity. Hearing aids will likely start adapting to all the tech in our lives, maybe even our cars. Hearing technology for everyday life also will continue to advance. Ashcroft already created the first IoT headphones, which actually recognize the music you love and downloads songs accordingly. The possibility of IoT headphones, however, will likely lead us to giving commands to Alexa to turn off lights, brew coffee or order pizza while then continuing to stream our favorite tunes. Technology is always advancing, and the evolution of sound and the technology that controls it will take our ears into the future.