Primarily for those who are deaf/hard of hearing, Re(Sound) Touch takes live conversation and translates it into a series of physical patterns on a band that the user wears around their chest.
Each physical sensation relates to a specific phonetic sound. As someone speaks to the user, the sensation is ‘played’ on the band. This allows the wearer to understand what is being said without having to hear.
There are 11 million deaf or hard of hearing people in the UK and 61% of people in the UK are embarrassed by their ability to communicate with those who are hard of hearing.
British Sign Language is only spoken by about 150,000 people in the UK, which represents 1.36% of those who are deaf.
Lip reading only covers about 30-45% of the English language and can be energy intensive to keep up with.
Hearing aids can easily cost over £3500 per ear and only a fifth of those who would benefit from the use of a hearing aid actually use one, with cost and stigma being amongst the biggest causes of low uptake.
Cochlear implants, whilst very effective for some, are permanent and are expensive. There is also the question of agency when implanted in those who do not have the ability to make the choice for themselves, such as young children.
Re(Sound) Touch is expected to retail at between £100 and £200, is removable, cleanable and update-able. It is designed with humans in mind and is hidden under clothes to prevent any associated stigma.
It can be adapted for people with different hearing impairments to just pick out certain syllables of language which look or sound the same, such as ‘Pee’, ‘Bee’, ‘Dee’ and ‘Tee’. It can be muted when conversation just doesn’t want to be heard.
The next steps involve scaling down the size of the prototype, building a number of them for testing with volunteers from Action on Hearing Loss.