The small team at AudioTelligence originally planned to work with one of the large hearing aid companies to bring its assistive listening technology to market. But it has met with resistance – even though trials of its Orsana prototype have led to enquiries from individuals who suffer from the so-called ‘cocktail party problem’.
Now the company has decided to go it alone with its mission to help those affected. Research by Harris Interactive has found that more than 80% of adults aged between 40 and 64 find it difficult to follow conversations in noisy cafes, pubs, and restaurants.
The crowdfunding goal is £400,000 to fund the manufacture of an initial batch of 1,000 Orsana tabletop devices with accompanying wireless earbuds. Supporters of the campaign will be rewarded with one of the first devices off the production line. The aim is then to scale up production quickly to meet the pent-up demand.
AudioTelligence CEO Sue Handley Jones said: “We have been inundated with enquiries from consumers and audiologists keen to know when our technology will be available. So, we have decided to take matters into our own hands and manufacture Orsana ourselves – funding the production through this crowdfunding campaign. Our unwavering belief in the tremendous benefits of our technology drives our passion to make it accessible to everyone who needs it.”
Orsana is a device that uses built-in microphones and algorithms to separate speech from noise. The user has to place the device on a table and clear speech will be delivered to the accompanying wireless earbuds. The device also mutes the user’s own voice to avoid any echo issues.
The secret of Orsana’s success lies in a different approach from traditional hearing solutions which use techniques such as beamforming and digital noise reduction – these are imprecise and can distort voices and introduce unwanted noises. Orsana uses AudioTelligence’s patented blind source separation and noise suppression technologies to ensure high performance and low latency of just 50ms to avoid ‘lip sync’ issues. In a typical cafe or restaurant setting, Orsana has been shown to increase speech understanding from 5% to 98%.
“With Orsana taking care of the noise, I can chat with my friends and family without struggling to hear what they are saying – even in noisy pubs and restaurants,” said Tony Roberts, who took part in one of the Orsana trials. “It is probably difficult for people who don’t suffer from the cocktail party problem to appreciate just what a major breakthrough this device is. It is a real game changer for me.”