Advanced Assistive Applications

Introduction

In many adverse conditions, present-day assistive solutions are insufficient to alleviate the limitations in activities. A number of solutions are available, like the use of telecoil and infrared systems. These systems are very specific in that they are special purpose both in their in- and output channels requiring special inductive or line of sight coupling. One of the HearCom objectives is to define a new personal link that allows bi-directional communication and that will follow-up on the telecoil and infrared systems as used before. In addition, in some cases only a simple adaptation of available devices will make it possible for the target group to use this technology, e.g. new developments of providing information to users of GSM telephones within specific cells like on train stations. This type of use can be extended and adapted to the specific needs of the target groups of the HearCom project.

The HearCom vision

In the vision of the HearCom Project, new assistive services and applications for persons with hearing problems will be based on the following new developments:

  1. A wireless Personal Communication Link (PCL) that will supply information to the hearing aid as a successor for the inductive link (telecoil).
  2. A Personal Communication System (PCS) as a handheld concentrator of information to facilitate communication. This PCS system will be a development based on new advanced mobile telephones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA's).

Analysis of existing assistive technologies

The HearCom project has made a multi-national inventory on the requirements of a personal communication link. As part of this the HearCom researchers have visited a number of public loop (telecoil) systems in the UK and the Netherlands to learn about the staff awareness of these systems, and how often they are monitored and maintained. This research is helping to advise the design of alternative systems; you can read more about this work here.

New Assistive Applications

On basis of the new personal communication system and wireless link the HearCom project is exploring the following new services and applications:

  1. Automatic Speech Recognition as a supportive service for speech communication. For this HearCom is exploring a new client-server ASR service as wel researching the optimal combimed presentation of speech and ASR information. More information on the application of ASR can be found here.
  2. Advanced signal processing to enhance audio information on basis of personal hearing impairment profile (Personal Hearing System or PHS); More information on the PHS can be found here.
  3. Wireless Public Address (WPA) in which messages are stored, displayed and replayed through the PCS. This will have applications in railway stations, theatres, churches and other situations in which it is difficult to understand announcent messages. More information on WPA can be found here.

Personal Communication Link (PCL)

The HearCom proposed Personal Communication Link is intended to become the successor of the inductive link (telecoil) for hearing aid. For this new Personal Communication Link, the HearCom Project is researching a new short range wireless body area link in cooperation with industrial partner NXP Semiconductors (before Philips Semiconductors). The focus of HearCom is to adapt this new link technology for use with hearing aids. This new link has been rercently developed and information on this is still confidential. It is expected that more information will be provided in the fall of 2007.

Personal Communication System (PCS)

The Personal Communication System is the concept for a handheld system that will act as a concentrator for communications and advanced assistive applications and services. In the picture as shown below an impression is given of the new advanced communication flows and new applications.

The PCS concept will be based on new future developments of mainstream mobile phones and PDA's. The PCS as researched by HearCom will consist of the exploration of the new assistive services and applications as described above. As platform a commercial smart phone will be used on which the new services will be implemented.

The Personal Communication Link (PCL) will be essential for communication with hearing devices. However this link will not yet be available for integration into a commercial PDA or smart phone. Instead of the new PCL also wired links or wireless bluetooth headsets can be used. These alternative connections can also be appleed for persons not having hearing aids.

PCS