Pepa Chesworth Russell
The COVID-19 pandemic means that this many deaf people are confronted with online experiences not designed for hearing losses. Deaf listeners struggle to hear digital audio due to compression, and cannot understand the radio, television or lyrics of music.
OTO are a pair of headphones that can adapt audio playback to personalise listening. They do this through the creation of hearing profiles, which are used to adapt the frequency balance of audio playback to deliver a higher quality auditory experience. This hearing profile will then employ two modes – Immersive Mode and Speech Mode.
Immersive Mode is designed for use in leisure scenarios, when the listener simply wants to enjoy the audio without distractions. The aim of this mode is to deliver the most in-depth experience of sound, and is suitable for music, video game soundscapes and film. Speech Mode should highlight speech frequencies, and particularly that of consonants in non-tonal languages. The aim of this mode is to improve the clarity of speech, particularly within video calls and media such as documentaries and podcasts.
To change between modes, the listener simply must rotate the left dial, which provides tactile and auditory feedback. Turning the right dial adjusts the volume. Other auditory features are also explored throughout the project, including noise cancellation technologies and an auto-play function, as well as the importance of sustainability – the assembly is designed to be taken apart by the user for the replacement or upgrade of any parts, and all components are made from environmentally friendly materials.