February 25, 2024

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Wearable tech allows people to feel music

Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Auckland have developed a wearable device that allows the hearing-impaired to feel music.

As reported, the development of the Musical Sensory Substitution Bits (Muss-Bits) was partly inspired by renowned deaf multi-percussionist and performer, Dame Evelyn Glennie, who feels music through her feet.

About Muss-Bits

The device works on a similar principle. However, it is worn like a watch so that people can feel the music through their wrist and arm.

It was developed by Associate Professor Suranga Nanayakkara and his team in the Augmented Human Lab at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute.

The device is made up of two parts: the sensor bit and the display bit.

The sensor bit is the part of the device that can be placed on or plugged into various sound sources like musical speakers or an instrument.

These include an audio jack, a contact microphone, a signal processing unit, and a wireless module.

The display bit, meanwhile, is basically a vibrotactile motor and LED lights encased in what looks like a watch.

Testing the device

The device is being trialled for the past five months by a user, who lost her hearing 3 years ago, at the age of 19.

The Associate Professor asked the user to choose a song on YouTube and she started crying the minute it started with its first beat.

The device brought her a lot of joy, particularly when driving the car. Turning up the car stereo has helped her recall and feel music she was able to hear before.

In addition, Muss-Bits could be used to help deaf children learn music by introducing them to the beat and rhythm of music early on.

It can also be used to enhance the feedback loop of auditory information for deaf musicians and help them evaluate their own performance.

The Associate Professor and his team are in constant contact with the user, and are now looking to adapt Muss-Bits in response to her feedback.

This includes incorporating a speech-recognition system that converts voice to text in real time. There is also a microphone array that allows the user to identify the direction of the voice.

Having these functions will allow the user to read what is being said as well as to see who is speaking in a meeting.

The team has a driving philosophy focused on creating human-computer interfaces, which learn and adapt to people and to develop technologies that actually make life easier, particularly those who face challenges due to sensory deficits in hearing or vision.

Other devices

Aside from Muss-Bits, the team had developed a number of devices aimed at making lives easier. These are:

  1. The Finger Reader

This device allows the visually impaired to read text through a device that they wear on their fingers.

  1. Chewit

This device allows for discreet and hands-free interaction with a phone, computer, and smartwatch, among others.

OpenGov Asia earlier reported on Assistive augmentation makes chewable tech possible, which described Chewit as a tiny piece of technology that is encased in a flexible custom made PCB that is popped in the mouth.

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