Before launching a crowdfunding campaign in November 2016, Owen produced 9,231 hardware designs and 822 working prototypes. Owen formed his company, Olive Union, based on his crowdfunding campaign's overwhelmingly positive response and launched his first product, the Olive Smart Ear, at CES in 2020.
Olive Union part of a growing wave of startups in the fledgling hearables industry. Although one in five people in the US struggle with hearing loss, not everyone needs a hearing aid. However a little boost may be needed in certain situations. Devices that cater to this demand are known as 'hearables'.
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A mission to end the stigma of hearing loss
Owen observed how trendy people are already proudly correcting their vision issues with fashionable, bold frames. He realized that hearing aids might eventually be seen the same way: an elegant, sleek, practical wearable that everyone would be happy to wear.
"We're removing barriers for people to improve their hearing, one ear at a time," according to Song. "With the Olive Smart Ear, we've combined cutting-edge technology, modern design, an intuitive user experience and an affordable price. We want people to wear these proudly, the way many already improve their sight with fashionable eyeglasses."
The Olive Union Smart Ear
The Smart Ear is sold as a single unit and is a Personal Sound Amplifier Device (PSAP).
The device is formed as a single plastic earpiece with a circular body. Two microphone holes are located on the back panel, with a touch-sensitive surface between them to control the device.
Three silicone earplugs and two foam earplugs of varying sizes are also included with the Smart Ear. With a little experimentation with the various sizes, the earpiece is sure to fit comfortably and securely in your ear.
Programming the Smart Ear
It's easy to modify the Smart Ear to suit your needs. The Olive Union Smart Ear app walks you through a simple calibration phase. You start by placing the Smart Ear into your ear and tapping your screen. This calibration stage determines the Smart Ear's EQ curve for what frequency bands will be amplified and by how much. To aid this process, the app will ask you for your birth year and month, gender, and ask you whether you have used a hearing aid before.
- Excellent sound clarity: With unprecedented feedback cancellation and an outstanding hearing range, this award-winning sound technology is clear to see.
- Bluetooth connectivity: Over Bluetooth, the Smart Ear pairs with your handset and operates with a provided app. When attached to a smartphone (Android or iOS), the Smart Ear acts as a monaural earphone, which also offers controls for sound modification.
- Three sound modes: These modes are tailored for various sound conditions: default, conversation, and TV viewing. These concentrate on improving speech understanding, but you can also use the Smart Ear to take calls and listen to music in one ear, much like you would with a standard Bluetooth headset.
- Rechargeable power: With a single charge, enjoy 7 hours of use. For an additional 14 hours, use the portable charging case.
- Improved TV listening: Enjoy an improved TV listening experience without having to raise the volume.
- A multi-use base: Compact holding, charging, and power reservation charging base.
- Choose your fit: silicon & foam ear tips of different sizes for a snug, secure fit.
Engadget awarded the Smart Ear the award for "Best Wearable" in the International CES 2020 "Best of CES Awards." This was based on a range of factors, including innovation, quality of design, overall efficiency, and market demand.
The Olive Smart Ear is an excellent choice for looking for a stylish and affordable solution to improve your hearing for those with mild hearing loss. It is an attractive option for those whose hearing could use a little boost but are not ready for a full-blown hearing aid.
Soon to come: The Olive Pro
Currently receiving backing on IndieGogo is the sequel to the Smart Ear - the Olive Pro.
The Olive Pro is a 2-in-1 device that combines a hearing aid with a pair of genuine wireless earbuds' full functionality. They are built to look identical to any standard pair of Bluetooth earbuds. However, depending on the user's hearing profile, the Olive Pro uses artificial intelligence to isolate unnecessary external noise and improve music, conversations, and TV.
The Olive Pro is a Class 2 medical device like most hearing aids, but it costs much less than a full-blown hearing aid price and does not require you to visit an audiologist. If you’re looking to get in on the ground floor, the device is now live on Indiegogo at an early bird price of US$199. Shipping will begin in February 2021.