Google’s Alphabet Developing ‘Wolverine’ Device for Superhuman Hearing
Google’s parent company Alphabet is working on a wearable device that would allow users to isolate a single person’s voice from a crowd.
The secretive project, code-named Wolverine, would enable superhuman-like hearing through sensor-packed hardware and multiple microphones that deliver an augmented audio feed into the wearer’s ear.
X (also known as Moonshot Factory), a semi-secret research and development lab and subsidiary of Alphabet, confirmed the top-secret technology to Business Insider saying it has been working on an in-ear, sensor-packed device since 2018.
Members of Alphabet’s team spoke to the publication anonymously, saying the project is focusing on how to isolate people’s voices in a crowded room or make it easier to focus on one person when overlapping conversations are happening around you.
Alphabet has already reworked the device multiple times, trialling versions that covered the whole ear and others that protruded from above the ear. These iterations were bulkier due to all the microphones packed into the build, however according to Business Insider‘s investigation, the newer versions are smaller.
Talent from hearing technology companies have joined the team, including people from Starkey Hearing Technologies and Eargo.
Business Insider notes the Wolverine project is reminiscent of Whisper, a company whose team managed to isolate sounds through a “sound separation engine” that adapts to wearers’ environments.
This begs the question of privacy, with such technology potentially infringing hugely on people’s right to conduct personal conversations in public. Could this device allow people to have a good old eavesdrop on strangers’ business from afar?
It remains to be seen; Alphabet has not made it known whether such a wearable will ever be made available to the public.
But as Business Insider reports, Alphabet’s team isn’t focused on just one device. The lab is looking to build a successful business with multiple devices and models, so if they’re successful, there might be such thing as Google-owned hearing aids.
One must wonder why Google, the most powerful surveillance tool in the world, is investing so much in listening.