Alex Westner | Xander; Marilyn Morgan Westner, PhD | Xander
Competition Sponsor: US National Academy of Medicine
Awardee Year: 2022
Worldwide, about 466 million people experience disabling hearing loss. In the U.S., approximately one in three people between 65 and 74 are impacted by hearing loss and nearly half of Americans 75 and older struggle daily because of hearing impairment. Despite advances in technology, common solutions—hearing aids and cochlear implants—do not completely solve the problem. Even under perfect conditions with well-fitted hearing aids, many patients still struggle to understand speech. Hearing loss has recently been identified as a top risk factor for dementia. The constant strain on the brain to understand speech leads to cognitive decline. Current solutions require sustained concentration that many describe as mentally exhausting. To compensate for the shortcomings of their hearing aid devices, people rely on visual communication methods, including sign language, lip reading and captions/subtitles. Our solution builds on these behaviors. “Speech Glasses” are augmented reality (AR) smart glasses that display real-time captions of what others are saying—like speech bubbles—in the wearer’s field of view. Speech Glasses enable wearers to use their vision to supplement hearing, making it easier to understand what other people are saying. Speech Glasses promote healthy longevity by improving cognition, mental acuity, and reducing stress on the brain, which can help mitigate cognitive decline. The glasses will help people communicate with others, stay social, be active, go out to restaurants, and engage in family conversations. They can boost confidence and self-reliance, empowering individuals to advocate for themselves and stay sharp when talking to medical professionals.
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