Selective hearing’ headphones: Hear clearly in a crowd with one look

It’s challenging to hear one person clearly in a noisy environment, especially for individuals who are hard of hearing. While modern hearing aids incorporate noise-cancelling technology, background noise can still be a significant issue. Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a groundbreaking solution to enhance hearing in noisy surroundings.

The ‘target speech hearing’ (THS) system created by UW researchers utilizes ordinary noise-cancelling headphones equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) technology. By simply looking at the individual they wish to hear and pressing a button on the headphones, the wearer can isolate and amplify that person’s voice while filtering out extraneous noise. The system boasts an impressive end-to-end latency of 18.24 milliseconds, ensuring real-time processing of the speaker’s voice.

In a recent study, 21 subjects tested the THS system in real-world indoor and outdoor environments, rating the clarity of the speaker’s voice significantly higher than without the technology. While the current system can only isolate one target speaker at a time, the researchers are working on expanding it to earbuds and hearing aids. They have also made the THS code publicly available on GitHub for further development.

The researchers presented their innovative work at the ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where it received an Honorable Mention. The THS system has the potential to revolutionize hearing assistance technology and improve communication in noisy settings.

Source: University of Washington