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Google Patents Social Networks Apple

Apple Plans Hearing Aid Social Networking 70

theodp writes "Apple may have killed off Ping, its attempt at a music social network, but the USPTO on Thursday disclosed that Apple has patent-pending plans for a hearing aid-based social network. So, if Apple's granted patents covering its Social Network for Sharing a Hearing Aid Setting and method of Remotely Updating a Hearing Aid Profile, will it use them to 'go thermonuclear' on Google when the search giant gets around to improving its current offerings for the hard of hearing?"
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Apple Plans Hearing Aid Social Networking

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I couldn't hear you.

  • by feedayeen ( 1322473 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:42PM (#40731859)

    Why would people share hearing aid settings with others? Isn't this the type of device set by the operator's preferences?

    Having a short range communication between hearing aids and external devices has advantages in calibration, but I just don't get the social part.

    • by SilenceBE ( 1439827 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:51PM (#40731903)
      The only "social" part is - by reading the article - that people are able to share settings.

      The problem is that this summary is written by an idiot it seems - is this the infamous timothy which I seems some comments of now an then ? - and has nothing really to do with Google or even a social network in the typical sense when we speak about "social networks".

      The person written this summary has really mental problems as it seems he wants to abuse people with hearing disabilities to spread FUD about a scenario which really don't make any sense if I read the article. I don't even know what is has to do with subtitles on youtube.
      • Dammit I mean "abuse the situation of people with hearing disabilities" - it is to late at this part of the world.
    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      I just don't get the social part.

      Data mining for the end user instead of advertisers?

      "95% of your social network of fellow diesel engine mechanics boost the 11 KHz band by an average of 8 dB and you're only boosting 6 dB are you sure your settings are correct?"

      Also probably psychological support of "here's a whole community at exactly your level of hearing loss, not more, not less"

      • Next will be the patents on recreational drinking: 95% of your social network prefer to drink beer while watching sunsets but drink wine at candlelit dinners. Are you sure your drinking parameters are correct?
    • by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:58PM (#40731941)

      Freemium hearing aids: you get it for free but it will whisper ads it downloads from the net in your ears constantly.

      • ...but you can upgrade it now for a low fee*, and it'll give you less ads and more special magic powers, like the PeepingTom Spell Powered by Polaroid that has a 1 in 100 chance of printing out a iShowerphoto! You'll also get special color chips to customize your aid (because modifications like jailbreaks and paint are against the Terms of Use and Service).

        *lowness of fee not guaranteed

      • I would be running AdBlock but it conflicts with WaxBlock.

      • Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 21st century?"
        Fry: Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio, and in magazines, and movies, and at ball games, and whispered in our ears... and on buses and milk cartons and t-shirts, and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams, no siree.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:13PM (#40732013)

      I use my hearing aids in loop systems on a weekly basis at different churches. All of them have different levels on the loop system requiring me to turn the levels up and down on my hearing aids, since most of them aren't set to the (British) government standards (and of course, the output from different mixing desks are different). It would be great if there was a network to give me a baseline for the setup of the system that would work reliably, since hearing aid loops ARE set to the baseline.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh, stop with your relevant and insightful commentary, will you?

        These comments are for paranoid, delusional rambling about how Apple is evil and Google can never, ever, ever do wrong.

        Anything that does not confirm that bias, or which seeks to point out the fact that this has nothing to do with "Apple going nuclear on Google," or that there is actually a USEFUL application for this functionality, is immediately going to be modded flamebait.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @05:47PM (#40731877)
    I knew they had a for after their earbuds made everyone prematurely deaf.
    • Weird. I can't hear well, and me reading your comment is like me listening to people. Every now and then, words will just drop out, and I'll have to struggle to figure out what is being said.

  • Dear Apple, I paid a bucket of money for my hearing aids - in excess of NZ$7000 - please leave the damn things alone. If I need to tune them with wizzy settings, I will let the professionals who know what they're doing do it. PS. If I want to join a social network for sharing hearing aid settings - I'll join the 'Patents Killed by Prior Art network' on facebook.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually Apple has revolutionized many medical devices. Electronic devices for assisted communication used to cost thousands of dollars had horrible interfaces and were hardly portable. Then apple released the iPad and a lot changed.

      • Sadly, these same patent issues [] still apply.
      • Working in techology in public health, most of the iPads and iPhones around here are with managers and are used more as mobile email tools.

        Having legacy applications, most sitting on windows machines has seen no practacle move to the tablet. Infact, the standard P.C build around here is winXP with i.e.6 and Office 2003 as some of our critical clinical applications have dependancies on these.

        yes, Apple has made communication on the go easier (or possibly more desireable) but as far as impact for front line

    • by neBelcnU ( 663059 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:19PM (#40732039) Journal

      I've also paid a fortune for my hearing aids, 100% of my own funds because health insurance in the US doesn't cover any hearing-related expenses beyond the most basic testing.

      With that in mind, I do NOT want the "professionals" touching my hearing aids. Having watched them repeatedly, I'm certain that I can do a better job--even with Siemens' cripple-ware. In fact, there are a number of hacks I think would be really impressive: The software packages the 4 settings by default in a manner that requires 3x the button-pushes should they be arrayed in simple "loudness order". Or this one: the feedback defaults to a series of beeps: 1 per setting position, 1 beep=1st setting, 2=2nd, etc. There's an option to set the tone to one of 4 different frequencies, so in my first visit, I figured out we should select ever higher tones for the counts. (1=lowest/least, 4=highest/most) The "professional" was so astonished by the usability improvement of this, he was going to apply it to other customers.

      Oh, and see what I did there? I just socially-shared a trick that others may find helpful." I know it's a licensed job, they're not idiots, and they do have skills, but they do not wear hearing aids. I cannot stress that last enough, every "professional" I've seen all have perfect hearing. They may understand the physiology better, but they do not understand the electronics, psychoacoustics, or the limitations better than I do.

      Run the tests, start up the app, and head out for lunch, I'll take it from here. And you bet your sweet bippy I'm going to publish MY settings, and compare notes with other users. If you don't want to, fine, don't. But I'll pay to get out of the highest walled-garden in the world.

      • I've got a set of Siemens Centra SP's... and yes, their programming software is just horrid... unstable and VERY slow. The multiple beeps to set programs bugs me too, as by the time you go through program 3, it's taking about a second and a half to beep at me. The only reason that makes any sense would be for people who can't distinguish tone levels very well? I did get them to set the lowest frequency possible, the default was stupidly high pitched.

        For my hearing aids, I have the first program set to al

    • Apple's iHear device will be smaller, lighter, more comfortable, less expensive and way cooler than your $7000 hearing aid.
      Either that, or it's a set of defensive patents designed to clear the patent minefield for the new Siri.

  • "John has changed his hearing aid microphone setting from omni-directional to directional."

    • Maybe it enables you do "un-hear" people you don't want to hear? You know, automatically turn down the volume when people you don't like speak?

      • Maybe it enables you do "un-hear" people you don't want to hear? You know, automatically turn down the volume when people you don't like speak?

        I'm sure this will be available at some point. Sadly, though, it's pretty much a great way to become a complete fool:

        Want to rebut the arguments of the people you don't like? Well, you can't, because you don't know what they're saying...

  • by MemoryAid ( 675811 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:10PM (#40731999)
    I can see where it may be helpful to crowd-source settings at certain locations. Maybe the noise profile at a pub responds best to a certain setup for most people, but you don't want to twiddle with your hearing aid until you figure it out. A statistical analysis of others' settings, along with some rating of satisfaction with them, could help adjust a hearing aid more quickly.

    I'm sure Apple could come up with an easy interface on the iPhone to quickly adjust, rate and share settings. Maybe even store some info about each person's hearing loss profile to better match people with settings...

    Of course, I haven't read the article yet, so this could be redundant.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @06:52PM (#40732183)

      Or, since many public facilities often offer induction loop capabilities for users with telecoil-equipped hearing aids, but the induction loop settings can vary wildly, it'd be nice to be able to see what settings other people at that location are using (or have used) to quickly and easily calibrate your own settings to work best with the loop.

      I'd rather have some "informed advice" to start with, instead of blowing out my eardrums because somebody calibrated an induction loop wrong.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Would a post about Apple have a Google logo on.

  • delay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the problem is accumulated delay. That is the time between presentation of the signal to its final output into the hearing aids' speakers. If only Bluetooth is involved then the delay is bearable, but if it requires another type of signal conversion, ala the Rexton or Bernafon type remote control / convertor then the delay becomes very noticeable and unacceptable. I have the Rexton aids and I can't use them as on stage monitors because of the delay. The real problem is the power consumption of a BT receiver

  • Troll much?
  • Given the mixed results of Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, this seems like talking about sending a man to mars. Given that warning, it would be nice if hearing aids worked together to deliver the best audio from the best vantage. The most obvious example would be two hearing-impaired people speaking at a party, Each could use the other's mic to pick-up their partner's voice, then cancel everything else out with their own device's mic. Obviously, this requires some kind of standard, which will never happe
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 22, 2012 @10:26PM (#40733207)

    In the U.S., the many hearing aid brands are manufactured by a tiny number of original equipment manufacturers (OEM) who control patents and technology. The remaining OEM's have bought up smaller competitors and their patent rights. For the most part, hearing aids are sold through branded stores or via distribution to audiologists and hearing specialists. The retail markups are ridiculously high, so that many pay $2,000 - $5,000 or more for a device far simpler in design than most any comparable consumer electronic device. To add even simple improvements (Bluetooth, coatings for moisture resistance, multiple profiles for sound equalization, more sophisticated feedback protection, rechargeable batteries) adds hundreds or thousands to the retail price.

    If Apple or other major electronics suppliers can simplify and improve hearing aid technology, then bravo. My state-of-the-art aids are often flummoxed in large public spaces with complicated acoustics. If a crowd-sourced sound pattern would allow me to hear better, you bet I'd take advantage of it. But the real benefit for the long-term might be in standardization of hearing aid interfaces and protocols so that over time prices might come down. The overwhelming majority of hearing impaired people world wide have no access to aids. Apple and others may be able to bring better hearing technology to the masses.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LodCrappo ( 705968 )

      Um.. you do realize this is Apple we are talking about right??

      Tiny number of OEMs, check. One in fact.
      Controls patents and technology like an ironfisted asshole, check.
      Bought up smaller companies and patents, check.
      Sold only through branded stores, check.
      Retail markups ridiculously high, check.

      Sounds like Apple will fit right in, but I don't see how they will improve things for hearing aid customers one bit.


  • Apple products are not cool. Apple as a company is not cool. The brand, the logo, the marketing campaign: all no longer cool.

    That's all I've been hearing lately. People talking about how it's so uncool to own Apple products now, how it makes you look like a douche because of Apple's shitty corporate behavior.

  • by mykro76 ( 1137341 ) on Sunday July 22, 2012 @10:44PM (#40733257)

    Apple's design concepts revolve around a simple experience for the 80%, and accessibility support for the 20% has historically been a long time in coming. It took 3 years for captioning to arrive on their Apple TV platform, and the iPhone didn't get accessibility features until its third iteration. I can and have recommended Apple products to others, but for this reason I am unable to use them myself.

    I cannot think of a worse company to have a lock up on accessibility-related patents :(

  • Back in my Tandy days it was always fun to help somebody with hearing aid batteries.
    the "correct" way to change the batteries

    1 have the person hand you an old pack (you need this for the color/size)
    2 grab the pack of batteries and pop 1 out
    3 have them take the hearing aid out and pop open the battery compartment
    4 check to make sure you have the correct battery
    5 remove the tab from the battery and spend 30 seconds marveling at the engineering that went into the battery*
    6 install the new battery (it should on

  • by dwightk ( 415372 )

    just no.

    This is the worst slashdot title/article/posting yet.

    I keep posting that, or meaning to post that and losing interest... let's see if this one makes it thorough.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter