For there to be great innovation there must be a real problem to solve in the first place. This is what Andy Simpson, the inventor of VOXimity (the AI which makes Chatable the revolutionary Hearing Aid that it is today), had in mind when, after studying and completing a PhD in auditory neural signal processing, asked himself:
“What’s the biggest problem for hearing impaired people today?”
He quickly answered his own question: background noise.
Andy looked into the available technology for tackling the problem of background noise. “I was thinking about the fact that the traditional filtering for hearing aids can can only take you so far in the fight against background noise. And it struck me that the human brain is very different". There was a stark difference between how hearing aids worked - what they aimed to solve - and how the brain actually processes complex signals such as speech. Andy deduced that the way to improve a brain which struggled to process speech signals in noise was to make an artificial intelligence that actually emulates the workings of a brain which processes signals well. This new signal created by the AI would then be fed into the human’s ear, a signal which can be read and processed cleanly by the brain. The new AI would change the way people think about hearing tech as less of a replacement ear and more of a second brain.
This was the moment that ChatableApps' AI VOXimity was born. Andy came up with a layman’s explanation of this AI system called the ‘Parrot Analogy’, which imagines ChatableApps' AI as a parrot sitting on your shoulder, constantly listening to the conversation you are having and feeding you back a perfect clear and loud mimic of the voice of the person speaking to you, but also without background noise. However, a new issue arose for Andy: a hearing aid simply doesn’t have anywhere near the computing power necessary to deploy a next-gen AI architecture. Suddenly a lightbulb went off in Andy’s head: “maybe the smartphone in every pocket could be a hearing aid? So, I turned my sights towards the smartphone and found the powerful GPU chips and great quality microphones necessary.”
The road to success from there has been long and drenched with sweat-soaked toil. Andy went back to the drawing board countless times, in the taloned grip of making his AI work with a phone’s processor. But finally, he cracked it, and the first ember of an AI Hearing Aid App was aglow. Soon after, Brendan O’Driscoll and Aidan Sliney came on board - a successful team who recently sold their first business Soundwave to Spotify. And they brought along George Boyle, who was a key member of their development team. Then the investor Mark Cuban (from Shark Tank) saw its potential and provided the foundations to what became the company, ChatableApps. “The team just grew and grew until one day I wake up and I have this incredible team around me,” Andy says of the company’s growth.
The team have been working laboriously ever since, to push Chatable forward and fine-tune it so that it can be the best it can be. There have been many back and forths and frustrating, pulling-out-the-hair moments along the way; and there is still much to learn. As our CEO, Giles Tongue, said recently: “Creating new innovative products isn't easy - overdosing on risk taking, curiosity, effort, drive... thinking, second guessing, replanning, while still keeping pushing forward”.
One study shows that 26% of the population struggles with speech in background noise. About a quarter of this number are made up of the 466mn with disabling hearing loss, the vast majority of whom currently use no hearing tech currently. The other 1.6bn of the population struggling in noise, include people with diagnosed or undiagnosed Auditory Processing Disorder, Hidden Hearing Loss and ADHD. After all, not everyone who struggles with background noise needs help for general hearing. Chatable offers a solution to all these groups, as it is a highly accessible, easy to use and un-intimidating piece of tech, that would not only be helpful to anybody with hearing impairment, hearing aids or a cochlear implant, but for anything that hinders one’s ability to listen well to conversation in background noise.
Chatable is a totally unique innovation - a world first - which means both a huge opportunity and tricky challenge. We have the ability to help a huge number of people, each with their own language, identity and particular set of needs that has to always be kept into account. The mission remains strong for us all at ChatableApps in ensuring that everyday conversation truly does become accessible to everyone, everywhere.
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