‘Hear! Hear!’ says a Leading Global Eyewear Maker
EssilorLuxottica develops glasses with invisible, embedded hearing aids
EssilorLuxottica has developed a pair of glasses that seamlessly incorporates open-ear hearing technology designed to aid consumers with mild to moderate hearing loss. The Paris-based firm –– whose brands include Ray-Bay and Oakley –– partnered on the project with Israeli startup Nuance Audio.
EssilorLuxottica, which acquired Nuance last year, declared: “We’re aiming to revolutionize the hearing space, an underpenetrated market where, similar to vision decades ago, consumers are averse to wearing corrective devices.” They see the potential to improve the quality of life for the 1.2 billion people worldwide who suffer from such a condition.
Directional hearing technology
Exhibiting at the huge consumer electronics show in Las Vegas for the first time, EssilorLuxottica said the prototype glasses use “distinctive directional technology” that minimizes listening fatigue in noisy environments. Doing so allows the glasses to deliver “unparalleled clarity in the direction of your line of sight.”
The high-quality array of microphones captures sounds from the direction the user is facing. The device instantly digitally processes and transmits the sounds to micro speakers embedded in the spectacle frame, delivering them directly to the user’s ears.
Achieving various objectives
Speaking at a CES press conference, Stefano Genco, global head of Super Audio and Nuance Audio, said the company had various goals for the product, including:
- Invisibility, to overcome stigma;
- Comfort, to avoid in-ear discomfort and any conflict with the glasses;
- Simplicity, to enable a one-minute configuration for the user, and
- Value of money, since these glasses will cost roughly 25 percent the cost of traditional hearing aids. (That places the glasses in roughly the $1,000 range.)
The eyewear can be wirelessly charged by closing the frame arms and placing the glasses upside down on their charging pad, where magnets ensure it is properly aligned.
Specialty nylon used for most frames
Fabio Borsoi, global head of R&D for wearables and frames, said in an interview after the media event that EssilorLuxottica typically uses “a special polyamide” for its frames, which it molds at its own factory in Guangdong, South China.
Francesco Milleri, EssilorLuxottica chairman and CEO, and Paul du Saillant, deputy CEO, said: “While sight remains our core business –– and growing the optical market our strategy –– we are uniquely positioned to open up a new avenue for the industry by addressing the need for good hearing with innovative technologies. As we did in the vision space, we will be the first to remove the stigma of traditional hearing solutions, replacing it with comfort and style.”
EssilorLuxottica says it will launch the product in two models and styles, three sizes and two different colors. The glasses are due to go on sale in the U.S. late this year and be available in Europe in 2025.
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