Alphabet’s moonshot lab is working on a device to give people superhuman hearing

Alphabet has attempted to take on some wild projects over the years, like a crop-sniffing plant buggy and fish-tracking cameras. But now, its X lab is working on a device that could give people superhuman hearing. As Insider first reported, the project, codenamed “Wolverine,” is exploring the future of hearing through sensor-packed hardware. The team, members of which spoke to Insider anonymously, say they’re currently trying to figure out 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.

They’ve already iterated on the device multiple times, including devices that covered the whole ear and others that protruded from above the ear. These iterations have been large because the team incorporates lots of microphones into the build, but newer versions are smaller, Insider says. Multiple people from hearing technology companies have joined the team, including talent from Starkey Hearing Technologies and Eargo.

Insider says the Wolverine team’s goals most closely align to that of Whisper, a company that came out of stealth last year. That team has managed to isolate sounds through a “sound separation engine,” which adapts to wearers’ environments. This suggests the lab’s goal isn’t to just create a device everyone would want, but rather an enhanced hearing aid.

Alphabet’s team isn’t focused on just one device or one use case, Insider says. The team is looking to build a successful business with multiple devices and models, so if they’re successful, you might start wearing Google-owned hearing aids.


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