There are billions of people in the planet with special abilities and needs. Contrary to popular belief, the development of solutions for them is neither a limited business opportunity nor restricted in it's application. To the contrary, the technology and design required to adapt to their requirements, raises the bar, significantly.
It tests and pushes the boundaries of what we believe to be possible with technology and the human spirit. Outlined below are some developmental and commercially available technologies for the hearing impaired. Reflect on the underlying approach, and you would notice that several technologies and techniques being developed can be universally applied to billions of others.
1. Hearing through vibrations in your skin
It works with a vest which allows people to hear through their skin. The device collects incoming audio via the users smartphone and then translates them into specific vibrations which the user can feel through the skin. The users would however need to understand the vibration language as in the case of hand based sign language. But the concept of vibrations as language is quite remarkable! And of course, this is possibly the only conceptual solution which is attempting to address deafness via touch and not sight or through the ear.
2. Solar Ear
One of the biggest challenges for hearing aids is the limited battery life of under 10 days in most. Their batteries are designed to last for 2-3 years, significantly cheaper than conventional devices and, of course, run on solar energy.
3. Smart Gloves
These gloves transliterate sign language into text and speech!
4. The Aslan Project
A multi year robotics project from the University of Antwerp. The team has developed a 3D printed robotic hand capable of translating spoken and written words into hand gestures!