5 November 2020

We’re Facebook, and we’re hear to help

The Back Page

Given the bad rap social media behemoth Facebook has been copping over its alleged omniscient monitoring of unwitting folks’ cyber activities, you’d think Zuckerberg’s spin doctors would think twice before spruiking this latest development.

But no. Just like the government, although arguably more powerful, Facebook is here to help. Particularly if you have a hearing impairment.

One of the well-known drawbacks of wearing hearing aids is that the devices are less effective in environments which are noisy and feature multiple simultaneous conversations, such as a party, or a busy restaurant, or question time in parliament.

Enter the boffins at Facebook’s Hearing Science lab (yeah, who knew) wielding a pair of augmented-reality glasses which they reckon might be able to isolate a specific conversation for the wearer and fade out the surrounding clamorous din.

According to a report in Digital Trends, Facebook is working on a “system that understands what you want to listen to, isolates and enhances the sounds you want to hear, and reduces distracting background noise”.

The Facebook research lead Thomas Lunner said his team had recently published a study in the journal Ear and Hearing detailing how an augmented reality platform could enhance hearing aids, thereby “closing the gap… through multimodal sensor integration, leveraging extensive current artificial intelligence research, and machine-learning frameworks”.

While the hearing aids would still handle the amplification of sound, the new technology could allow the aids to isolate certain sounds while suppressing others, Lunner was quoted as saying.

To do this the glasses would use spatial mapping technology to isolate “digital objects” such as the person the wearer was talking to at a party.

Call me cynical, but who else thinks Facebook might somehow be tempted to then monetise the content of those conversations, which the wearer would have agreed to happening in clause 47.d (vii) of the terms and conditions?

If you see something stupid, say something stupid … send ear trumpets to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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