Eyewear that lets deaf people see sounds

A prototype from Korea maps and signals sounds for the hard of hearing

When you are accustomed to having all five senses, it is difficult to imagine life without them. If you were hard of hearing, how would you cope with certain acoustic warning signals, like a car horn for example? With a pair of eyeglasses, obviously!


Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) of Daejeon have developed a prototype of eyeglasses that help people who cannot do it on their own. Installed on the frame are seven microphones that capture sounds and warn the wearer by means of a set of flashing LEDs also mounted on the eyewear. The device can also be programmed to indicate only those sounds that are above a certain strength.
Under development – This is the result that was presented in New York City at the InterNoise Conference and, like the previous technologies, it will undergo further improvement. In 2003, for example, the University of California, Berkeley, began programming a monitor that would indicate where sounds came from. In any case, the idea of the Korean team headed by Yang-Hann Kim needs a laptop to operate, but the device should be miniaturized in the future.


For the moment, the only problem could be conflict between this patent and the Project Glass prototype launched by Google a short time ago. The head mounted display developed at Mountain View could also be fitted with a similar function. In the meantime, development continues.


A question of points of view – The development of these glasses for the hearing-impaired continues but some – like Richard Ladner of the University of Washington – are already asking if the device can be of real use.