A New Interface is Gaining Traction

 

Ella Barnett | September 28, 2018

A second tech revolution is on the horizon! The increased development of “hearabales” promises to change the game in communication tech, with some very exciting early applications already in use in the healthcare sector. Allowing for increased face-to-face communication and heightened health tracking, these devices have the potential to revolutionise the way we interface with healthcare providers – potentially as disruptive as the introduction of the touch screen almost a decade ago.

‘Hearables’ refers to a subsection of the wearable trend, specifically designed for your ears. With the development of voice, hearables are developing into a whole new tech sector of their own, with an estimated 75% growth rate by 2019.  

The race is on between the big phone companies to create a hearable that can take time away from the screen. If information can be voice-activated, instead of visual, then there will no longer be the zombie shuffle of people with their head down and eyes on their phone, looking at directions, reading news, answering texts. Instead, wide-eyed and alert, people can have their life read aloud to them. And that means a shift in power; away from the traditional visual media and towards audio-driven media.

Now, I’m not saying that the screen interface will disappear; just that the time spent staring at it may lessen as we absorb more information through our ears instead of our eyes. An important factor to consider with the rise of Gen Z and their unique media consumption habits – for example, 50% of “Gen Z” smartphone users were actively trying to cut back their social media and screen time.

All this means that “hearable” hardware will not only be connected seamlessly – and wirelessly – to our electronic devices, but may also start to incorporate aspects of that device to make a more synchronized experience. Think along the lines of making headphones more invisible, with enhanced sound quality and voice activation cues, plus a longer battery life. Add a built-in translator, and your ability to communicate directly with others is suddenly on a whole new level.

These advancements are not only beneficial from your average consumer standpoint, but for those of us who actually need help to hear. When we discuss hearables, most of us think ‘smart headphones’. But hearing aids and other medical hearing devices actually fall into the category of hearables as well. This development of hearing and voice acuity will have – and already has had – enormous benefits to this area. Not in the least of which is the lowering of prices for hearing instruments, which for too long have been monopolized by audiologists. More importantly however, will be the increased amplification and curation of sound, allowing the wearer to locate specific sounds and cancelling out individual background noises.

Perhaps most interestingly for healthcare providers is the unique biological implications of having a ‘smart device’ physically-inserted into the ear canal. The anatomy and physiology of the ear allows for a more accurate level of biometric tracking than the wrist or chest, including the reading of vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and even electro-encephalogram brain activity. ‘Hearable’ users could soon have precise and minutely-detailed information of how their body is operating on a day-to-day basis. Beyond applications for healthcare, ‘hearables’ hold important implications in cyber-security –  the heartbeat may soon replace the fingerprint as a unique digital identification.

With the ongoing interest in ‘wellness’, these new capabilities give hearables enormous market potential. Moving beyond just audio transmission, hearable devices  could change the way we measure & understand our health, with intriguing implications for the healthcare and health insurance industries.

The development of ‘smart hearables’ have the potential to transform how we interact with information – and also how we interact with each other. While unlikely to entirely replace smartphones , you can be assured that hearbles will revolutionize the way we communicate.