Oct 16, 2020

Whisper’s AI-enabled, updateable hearing aids

Whisper
hearing aids
Startup
AI
William Smith
2 min
San Francisco, California-based Whisper has developed a hearing aid which uses AI for continual improvement
San Francisco, California-based Whisper has developed a hearing aid which uses AI for continual improvement...

San Francisco, California-based Whisper has developed a hearing aid which uses AI for continual improvement.

Hearing aids are notoriously expensive devices, and that significant investment goes into a piece of relatively old-fashioned, unchanging technology.

Whisper’s Hearing System, however, is linked to a phone, allowing updates to features such as its Sound Separation Engine, which use AI algorithms to optimise sound in different environments.

It’s a model similar to Tesla’s approach to the automotive industry, with its cars capable of getting over-the-air updates to unlock new features

The company, which was founded in 2017, has so far raised $53mn, with its latest Series B round, announced yesterday, seeing the company raise $35mn. The round was led by lead investor Quiet Capital, alongside Sequoia Capital, IVP, First Round Capital and Arrive.

In a press release, Dwight Crow, Co-Founder & CEO of Whisper, said: “Technology should be used to improve people’s lives. Many of the problems people face in hearing – whether hearing in a loud restaurant or having a device that quickly gets outdated – are solvable with recent advancements in consumer electronics and artificial intelligence. With the Whisper Hearing System, consumers get a state-of- the-art device designed in Silicon Valley that doesn’t stay static but continually improves with artificial intelligence for better performance.”

The company said it would use the funds to support the launch of the flagship system, which consists of earpieces, a hub called the Whisper Brain, and the aforementioned app

“Software-defined hearing technology is the future,” said Mike Vernal, Partner at Sequoia and Whisper Board Member. “By building the Whisper Hearing System around software, the Whisper team will be able to improve patient care with a device that adapts, upgrades, and improves continuously for the wearer’s benefit. This is the start of a new paradigm for delivering hearing technology, and we’re thrilled to partner with Whisper on this journey.”

(Image: Whisper)

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Jun 21, 2021

ICO warns of privacy concerns on the use of LFR technology

Technology
ICO
LFR
cameras
3 min
Organisations need to justify their use of live facial recognition (LFR) is fair, necessary, and proportionate, says the Information Commissioner’s Office

Live facial recognition (LFR) technology should not be used simply because it is available and must be used for a specific purpose, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for live facial recognition (LFR) technology to be used inappropriately, excessively, or even recklessly. When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner.

Denham explained that with any new technology, building public trust and confidence in the way people’s information is used is crucial so the benefits derived from the technology can be fully realised.

“It is not my role to endorse or ban a technology but, while this technology is developing and not widely deployed, we have an opportunity to ensure it does not expand without due regard for data protection,” Denham added.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it will work with organisations to ensure that the use of LFR is lawful, and that a fair balance is struck between their own purposes and the interests and rights of the public. They will also engage with Government, regulators and industry, as well as international colleagues to make sure data protection and innovation can continue to work hand in hand.
 

What is live facial recognition? 

Facial recognition is the process by which a person can be identified or recognised from a digital facial image. Cameras are used to capture these images and FRT software measures and analyses facial features to produce a biometric template. This typically enables the user to identify, authenticate or verify, or categorise individuals. 

Live facial recognition (LFR) is a type of FRT that allows this process to take place automatically and in real-time. LFR is typically deployed in a similar way to traditional CCTV in that it is directed towards everyone in a particular area rather than specific individuals. It can capture the biometric data of all individuals passing within range of the camera indiscriminately, as opposed to more targeted “one-to-one” data processing. This can involve the collection of biometric data on a mass scale and there is often a lack of awareness, choice or control for the individual in this process. 

 

Why is biometric data particularly sensitive?

Biometrics are physical or behavioural human characteristics that can be used to digitally identify a person to grant access to systems, devices, or data. Biometric data extracted from a facial image can be used to uniquely identify an individual in a range of different contexts. It can also be used to estimate or infer other characteristics, such as their age, sex, gender, or ethnicity.

The security of the biometric authentication data is vitally important, even more than the security of passwords, since passwords can be easily changed if they are exposed. A fingerprint or retinal scan, however, is immutable. 

The UK courts have concluded that “like fingerprints and DNA [a facial biometric template] is information of an “intrinsically private” character.” LFR can collect this data without any direct engagement with the individual. Given that LFR relies on the use of sensitive personal data, the public must have confidence that its use is lawful, fair, transparent, and meets the other standards set out in data protection legislation.

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