Smartphones as hearing aids? WSJ features UIC engineer’s idea

Many people struggle to follow conversations in noisy environments such as parties or restaurants. New work from Ryan M. Corey, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois Chicago, uses everyday smartphones and earbuds to cancel out the background noise that can distract listeners. 

His work with the Listening Technology Lab at UIC was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article and described by Andrea Poet, of UIC Engineering.

With Corey’s system, developed with colleagues at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, each participant in a conversation wears an earbud or hearing aid and places their phone in front of them. A program on the phone then reduces background crosstalk, creating an individualized sound mixture for each person, and uses spatialization filters to help direct listeners’ attention to the individual that is speaking. 

“If I’m eating dinner with two other people, then my phone will try to focus on my voice and cancel out the voices of the other two people. Likewise, their phones will try to cancel out my voice so that I don’t hear an echo of myself when I talk,” Corey told Poet. “Like a muting system, this cancellation system is only active while the system thinks the user isn’t talking. Unlike in a muting system, the talker’s voice won’t be cut off if the voice activity detector makes a mistake.”

Corey holds a joint appointment with the Discovery Partners Institute, where he is a visiting research scientist. Watch a video of Corey and his collaborators demonstrating the technology below.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email