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(Pocket-lint) - Facebook has been working on an augmented reality headset for a while and now the company has revealed interesting ways the technology may help with sound too. 

Facebook Reality Labs Research has revealed that it is working on "novel technologies" which are designed to give the user enhanced hearing and "perceptual superpowers". This includes augmented reality tech which is designed to work out what you're looking at and help focus on it by amplifying the sound and reducing nuisance background noise. 

The idea being to help enrich the user's life by helping them concentrate and focus on what matters. This could include simple enhancements to everyday life:

"Imagine being able to hold a conversation in a crowded restaurant or bar without having to raise your voice to be heard or straining to understand what others are saying. By using multiple microphones on your glasses, we can capture the sounds around you. Then by using the pattern of your head and eye movements, we can figure out which of these sounds you’re most interested in hearing, without requiring you to robotically stare at it. This lets us enhance the right sounds for you and dim others, making sure that what you really want to hear is clear, even in loud background noise."

Essentially, this technology is an advanced type of hearing aid, but with the added bonus of augmented reality thrown into the mix too. The technology could also be used by both those with and without hearing impairments. 

In the restaurant example, Facebook is also envisaging that as well as customers using the headset, waiting staff and other employees may also benefit as well.

The company notes that the loud environments which bar and restaurant staff have to endure may contribute to hearing loss over time and this new technology may help prevent this. By reducing background noise and helping employees focus on who they're talking too, the AR headset will ease pressure on the ears on a daily basis. 

The addition of sensors and cameras on AR glasses could also be used to collect important contextual information such as where the user is looking to help amplify and isolate relevant sound. 

FacebookFacebook's AR glasses may give you superhearing too photo 1

Prototype designs of the technology seeming include AR glasses with speakers that direct sound towards the ear in a similar way to the Oculus Quest speakers work. Alternatively, the team is developing special in-ear monitors (IEMs) with active noise cancellation tech to eliminate background noise. 

The Facebook Reality Labs team is seemingly working on several different designs with varying potential applications. These include AR glasses and AR headset designs. So it's not clear what Facebook’s roadmap for these products is just yet. 

Whatever happens, Facebook will also need to overcome the fear that many people have about Facebook technology recording and surveilling them for the sake of selling data for ads. How comfortable would the average user be having Facebook recording everything they're saying and seeing what they're looking at?

The research team is already thinking about this:

"Today, before any data we collect is made available to researchers, it is encrypted and the research participant’s identity is separated from the data such that it is unknown to the researchers using the data. Once collected, it’s stored on secure internal servers that are accessible only to a small number of researchers with express permission to use it. The team also has regular reviews with privacy, security, and IT experts to make sure they’re following protocol and implementing the appropriate safeguards."

The plan is simply to use the technology to enrich people's lives and it's certainly interesting to see the potential applications. The future is going to be incredible. 

Writing by Adrian Willings. Originally published on 8 September 2020.