Washington: Scientists have created a new wearable device that translates spoken words into vibrations – helping hearing impaired people perceive speech in a completely new way.
The new device, known as the VEST (versatile extra-sensory transducer), can be worn on top of clothing or underneath.
The device depends on sensory substitution which involves feeding information from one sense into another.
“At the end of the day, your sensory receptors are all sending electrical signals to the brain,” Scott Novich, neuroscientist at the Baylor College of Medicine in the US, was quoted as saying in a LiveScience report.
A microphone on the vest captures sounds from the surroundings and feeds them into an Android tablet or smartphone.
The smartphone then extracts the audio relevant to speech and converts it into unique patterns of vibration in about 24 sounds.
Novich and his colleague David Eagleman have tested the device on a handful of deaf and hearing volunteers.
They compared two different algorithms for translating words into vibration.
Both the deaf and hearing participants can learn to interpret spoken words as patterns of vibration on the skin.
The research was presented at the 44th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, DC, recently.