My Alma Mater, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, never ceases to amaze me with collaborative innovations from within.
A device known as W EAR was born out of the collaborative and creative talents of Michelle Temple and Eric Rosenthal.
Everything in the universe must be in balance for a stable system to exist. As a designer, you not only have to be creative in the technical aspects of the design, but in the added balance of the ergonomics and aesthetic aspects as well. Both are important in the creation of a good, robust, and successful product or system.
Michelle Temple is an artist and the “Beauty and ergonomic” co-creator of the W EAR directional microphone. This Fort Greene Brooklyn resident states, “The stigma of having a disability is non-existent with glasses, and I'd like to make something that accomplishes that for hearing.” So the device can also serve as a low-cost hearing aid supplement.
Creativity takes on many forms and has many avenues of inspiration. Temple’s graduate professor, Eric Rosenthal, and “Technical and Science” co-creator is from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University (ITP). Rosenthal has taught Basic Analog Circuits among many other courses and has been awarded 9 patents. See their website for the technology of this device. He’s a pretty accomplished audio/video expert as can be seen by his bio.
He would take the many prototypes developed by Temple and test them at NYU and then would guide and coach her technically to a final design.
Temple was developing a directional speaker for her graduate work at ITP and later realized she could use the same techniques to create directional microphone far smaller than the typical existing shotgun microphone. She takes an aesthetic view of creativity focusing upon the beauty and art of a creation. Temple says, “I take pride in my circuit boards looking pretty.” She feels that the device works better because of its beauty. A very excellent observation since her device is unobtrusive and looks similar to an iPod so that people who might be sensitive to wearing a hearing device will find that no one would ever suspect that this is a hearing enhancement. No DSPs are necessary.
The device uses a near-field, planar, and beam-forming array of ten microphones which creates a six foot zone in front of the user to enhance the conversation. The coherent sounds reach the microphones at the same time and are amplified, but the non-coherent sounds reach them at different times and are not amplified. Bluetooth was considered but it would delay the audio as would a DSP. Latency will affect the hearing challenged by making lip reading (lip synch) difficult. An Analog circuit design was chosen with no measurable latency.
Temple went through many prototypes before the final design came about. You can see some of them on her Vimeo. All the fabrication has been done in her studio. She would make a new design there and then take it to NYU and let Rosenthal test it out and give her feedback.
She learned how to build the circuit boards starting with through-hole circuit boards and made her way up to using the surface mount technique. Temple spent a few months first learning to do a surface mount assembly by hand, with tweezers and a microscope. Temple comments that the intricacy is worth it because the system works better that way, making the device much smaller and much lighter. It also enables the use of advanced MEMS microphones.
The device does not replace a hearing aid, but is an amazing enhancement during a conversation in a very noisy surrounding. This situation is a very common problem even for people who do not wear hearing enhancement devices right now.
The W EAR also has applications for field recording using a directional microphone, as well as for recording music or video. An example application would be aa a commentator’s microphone in which there is no need to hold a physical microphone during an interview or during a discussion/commentary.
What I absolutely love is their DIY Maker Kit with a tutorial video online as well. They’re not just in it for the money, that’s obvious. It’s refreshing to find such a company that is out to make the world a better place as their primary goal.
Please give your technical feedback and expertise on this product idea.