Google Australia has announced a collaborative effort with five prominent Australian hearing organizations to develop AI-based solutions that will revolutionize hearing technology and provide personalized hearing healthcare. This alliance includes Cochlear, Macquarie University Hearing, National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), NextSense, and The Shepherd Centre.
"As part of our Digital Future Initiative, we’re announcing new partnerships to explore new possibilities and AI solutions for hearing healthcare. With our partners, we look forward to building on this work and designing tools with and for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Because as long as there are barriers, we still have work to do,"
- outlines Grace Chung, Head of Google Research Australia
The inaugural project aims to create personalized hearing models to enhance hearing aids and other listening devices, addressing individual auditory needs. This breakthrough technology could prove especially advantageous for those using listening devices in complex environments, such as crowded restaurants, group discussions, or live performances.
By exploring novel AI applications, the teams hope to improve the identification, categorization, and segregation of sound sources. This advancement may enable users of assistive listening devices to more easily follow conversations or activities, as the technology could prioritize specific sounds, like speech while filtering out background noise.
Grace Chung notes that 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of hearing loss. Australia has long been a leader in developing accessible hearing technology, with the cochlear implant now considered the gold standard for clinical protocols, diagnostics, and treatments in the field.
Australia also boasts one of the world's largest and most established cochlear implant programs through NextSense and has pioneered the use of telepractice. Google's Android already offers numerous accessibility tools, including Live Transcribe, Lookout, Sound Amplifier, Live Caption, TalkBack, Project Relate, and Project Euphonia.
Simon Carlile, a renowned expert in the field, will join Grace Chung and Peter Bartlett, who together head Google Research Australia, to guide the endeavor locally and build upon Australia's strong tradition of hearing innovation. The research will focus on enhancing hearing technologies to overcome current limitations and lay the foundation for more personalized hearing healthcare. This ambitious goal seeks to improve the lives of the 1.5 billion people globally affected by hearing loss. The investment is part of Google's Digital Future Initiative, further bolstering Australia's legacy of pioneering advancements in hearing technology.