The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a patent application from Google that revealed their work on ensuring that Google Glass will one day be a positive tool for the hearing impaired. So while certain circles will always see Glass as a major spy tool, there's the flip-side where it could be a positive tool for the hearing impaired.
Google states that in some situations, a user of a wearable computing system may have difficulty hearing. For instance, the user may be hearing impaired, such as hard of hearing or even deaf. As such, it may be difficult for a user to hear the sound of the surrounding environment. Thus, it may be beneficial to provide an indication of the sound of the surrounding environment to the user.
For instance, it may be beneficial to provide an indication of a direction from the wearable computing system of a source of sound and/or an intensity of the sound. As an example, a user may be at a crosswalk attempting to cross a street, and an oncoming car may be honking at the user in order to alert to the user that the car is driving through the crosswalk. In such a case, it may be helpful to indicate to the user the direction from which the honk is coming (e.g., from the left or the right), and the intensity of the honk (e.g., in order to indicate how close the oncoming car it to the user).
The plurality of microphones configured to detect the sound of the surrounding environment may be arranged in a manner to detect sound coming from a plurality of directions. For instance, the microphones may be arranged in a microphone array. Google's patent FIG. 2 illustrates an example wearable computing system having a microphone array 202. In particular, computing system includes an array of directional microphones 204a through 204e.
Each directional microphone 204a through 204e is arranged so as to capture audio in its respective corresponding region 206a through 206e. Note that although each directional microphone is positioned to primarily detect sound coming from the corresponding region, the microphones may also detect sound coming from other regions.
In an example, the microphones of array 202 may be arranged along various points of the frame or frames of the wearable computing system, such as frames 604, 606, and 608 shown in FIG. 6. Further, note that while the array 202 is arranged to detect sounds coming from regions that span approximately 150 degrees, an array in accordance with another example embodiment may detect sounds coming from regions that span more degrees (e.g., up to 360 degrees) or fewer degrees.
Google filed their patent application under serial number 448636 back in Q2 2012 and the US Patent and Trademark Office published it earlier this quarter. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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Side Note: Also see Sergey Brin's video on Glass here