By Achin Bhowmik, Ph.D.
At Starkey, our research and development teams are hard at work to develop and apply advanced technologies to help people perceive and understand the world better. Our passion to push the boundaries of what we thought was possible with hearing aid technology is fueled by a drive to directly impact the health and happiness of people around the world.
When we started dreaming about Genesis AI and set performance goals, the world didn’t even have the technologies needed to make that dream a reality. We had to build it from the ground up. Not only is the release of Genesis AI a new beginning for Starkey, it is a huge leap forward for personal health technology. We reimagined and rearchitected the hearing aid from the inside out so it does more than help people hear better than ever before, it helps them live better too.
But, this didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been five years in the making to develop our most advanced technology yet.
Building From the Ground Up
The vision for Genesis AI started with the patient experience. Then, we worked backward. We asked ourselves, “What technology pieces do we need to deliver an even better patient experience?”
What we wanted to accomplish required specific technologies that we didn’t have yet, no one did, so we really had to build it from scratch and bring it together in a product. This was an exciting challenge.
Genesis AI is crafted from meticulous research, testing and patient feedback. From the product’s design to the processor technology and the algorithms that run on it, we’ve reengineered everything. It’s equipped with new sound processing paradigms, new fitting software and new mobile applications that pair with it.
Enhanced Hearing Experience
For sound quality, we started by looking at the best example of background noise suppression and speech enhancement: the human cerebral cortex.
What better to learn from than the brain and neuroscience?
We don’t hear with our ears; rather, neuroscience shows that the peripheral auditory system serves as sensors that perform the important functions of directionality, tonotopic frequency analysis, nonlinear amplification, and transduction of sound into a neural impulse train that is transmitted via the auditory nerve fibers to the brain. The cerebral cortex of the healthy human brain efficiently processes and recognizes these sounds, suppresses noise, and helps us understand speech.
This amazing computation is performed by a dense network of billions of neurons within the auditory cortex and beyond. Our brain loses this remarkable ability, however, when we live with untreated hearing loss, which can result in brain atrophy or loss of neurons.
Our new Starkey Neuro Processor, the brain within the Genesis AI devices, includes a built-in deep neural network accelerator engine that helps analyze sound, enhance speech, and reduce noise like the healthy human cerebral cortex does. Genesis AI performs over 80 million automatic sound analyses and optimizations every hour. That’s nearly two billion adjustments in a day! This unprecedented level of computational performance for a hearing aid is a reality because our all-new Neuro Processor includes six times more transistors, and it functions up to four times faster than our previous processor.
The power, speed, and efficiency of the Starkey Neuro Processor enable it to take in the data and utilize complex pattern recognition with advanced machine learning technology to adapt to more listening situations than ever before, similar to how our brains are able to process complex sounds and pick out what we want to hear.
With this technology, Genesis AI mimics the way the auditory system reduces listening effort in challenging environments to create a better listening experience for the hearing aid wearer. But, we couldn’t stop there.
More Than a Hearing Aid
Delivering incredible sound quality with enhanced hearing experience is the most important job of a hearing aid. However, at Starkey, we are on a relentless journey to transform hearing aids from a single-purpose device to a multipurpose one that reduces the stigma around wearing these devices and, ultimately, helps people live healthier lives. That’s why we architected Genesis AI to be more than a hearing aid.
Besides helping people hear better, Genesis AI includes a built-in physical and cognitive activity tracker that classifies even more activities than our previous technology, including steps, walking, running, indoor biking, and aerobics using embedded 3D sensors. Moreover, our hearing aids automatically detect if the wearer falls and sends alert messages to caregivers.
An integrated personal assistant answers any questions, reminds the wearer of medication alerts and other tasks, transcribes speech, and even translates languages privately in the ear. With Genesis AI, we’ve increased the number of languages it can translate in real-time by more than 50 to a total of more than 70.
The mechanical and electrical designs of Genesis AI hearing aids have also been completely reimagined to deliver superior comfort. The new, ergonomic design rests snugly and conforms naturally behind the ear, making it more discreet and comfortable. We also doubled the battery life. Before, computing and battery life would be at war because more processing would lead to less battery life. We figured out a way to do both to deliver the industry’s longest-lasting rechargeable devices on the market. Additionally, with six layers of protection that surpass the already lofty IP68 standard, these hearing aids are now waterproof up to one meter and can withstand whatever life throws at them.
The legendary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke stated: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Starkey’s Genesis AI hearing aid devices are magical, and we are just getting started.
Achin Bhowmik, PhD, is the Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of Engineering at Starkey, leading the transformation of hearing aids into versatile health and communication devices through advanced sensors and AI. Previously, he was VP and GM at Intel, overseeing areas like 3D sensing, AI, robotics, and virtual reality. He is also an adjunct professor at Stanford University, involved in advisory roles at UC Berkeley and the University of Minnesota, and serves on the board of trustees for the National Captioning Institute.