More and more, we're seeing smartglasses that don't actually stick information in front of your eyes, but into your ears instead. At SXSW Bose showed off its audio AR glasses, and companies like Vue are taking a similar route.
Also at the Austin show was asEars, a student startup making smartglasses for people with single-sided deafness. The glasses have a microphone on the rim that picks up sound and an onboard sound processor that transmits it to a bone conduction mic over the impaired ear.
That processor detects which noises are coming from the direction of the impaired ear and makes sure only those sounds are being played into it. It's like a CROS hearing aid, but less intrusive. While not everyone will want to wear glasses, I can completely see the appeal for people who'd rather keep the technology concealed.
And importantly, they look good and feel light. Well, the 3D-printed prototypes I saw did. The unit I tried on wasn't fully working due to a malfunction, but I was able to feel the vibrations in the bone conduction working when someone nearby spoke.
The student team, which is funded by the University of Tokyo, has been working on the asEars glasses for 10 months and wants to get them into production next year.
The idea was inspired by one of the leaders of the team who has single-sided deafness, but there's a big market for this type of device. In the US, an estimated 60,000 people get SSD (also known as unilateral hearing loss) every year.