Prof. Neal Hall Named Finalist for 2015 SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards

Monday, March 16, 2015 - 9:00pm

Dr. Neal Hall, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and Founder of Silicon Audio, an Austin-based technology innovation company, is one of eight Austin finalists in the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards for an unprecedented hearing device that mimics a fly's super hearing power.

Hall leads a research team at the University of Texas at Austin that was recently able to create a true-to-size mimic of the special fly's hearing organ on a silicon chip, where the remarkable sound localization ability of the fly was demonstrated.  His team aims to apply these mimics to develop hearing aids that can pinpoint a speaker of interest in a noisy restaurant, while filtering out background noise that degrades speech and can be painful to the eardrums.

"Researchers have been working on small silicon-based acoustic devices for a few decades now, but most miniature microphones today simply resemble their larger counterparts," said Hall. "We have exotic applications and tools to heighten our vision, like telescopes and microscopes, so it is natural to ask why can't we explore ways to extend our hearing in exotic and bionic ways. There are 35 million hearing impaired Americans, but only 28 percent use hearing aids, primarily due to customer dissatisfaction. Within two years, we aim to make a positive impact to hearing health with our new fly-inspired acoustic sensors."

In addition to the new technology being a great use for hearing-assistive devices, Hall's team believes it can also be used for many other commercial applications, including consumer electronic devices and even for military and defense applications.

The SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards celebrates the best and latest advancements of 2014 across an increasingly diverse ecosystem of platforms, software, apps and devices. Of hundreds of applications submitted, Hall is recognized twice, under the Health Med & BioTech and SciFi No More categories, among the 70 finalist spots given across 14 categories by a panel of judges comprised of industry peers and experts. The list of 14 categories in this competition, which are entirely new this year, include Health Med & Biotech, Innovation in Connecting People, Innovative 3-DIY, Internet of Things, Music Discovery, New Economy, Privacy & Security, Responsive Design, SciFi No Longer, Student Innovation, Sustainable Tech, Transportation Advancements, Visual Media Experience, and Wearable Tech.  

"We are blown away by the bold creativity and innovation embodied by this year's Innovation Award finalists," said Mason Stewart, SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards Coordinator. "Considering the quality of this finalist pool, determining the winners will be no small feat."

The SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards Ceremony takes place the evening of Tuesday, March 17, 2015, on the sixth floor of the Hilton Austin Downtown, where the winners from each category will be revealed and honored. For more information about the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards and to view the complete list of 2015 finalists, visit the following site: http://sxsw.com/interactive/awards/interactive-awards.

The content of this article was taken from a press release by Silicon Audio. UT ECE does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services.