Flat Earth, Inc. has received funding to develop an open speech platform targeting the hearing aid research community from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), which is an agency within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Flat Earth is basing this open speech platform on Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) because FPGAs are ideal for real-time digital signal processing (DSP) and more importantly, they provide very low and deterministic latencies, which cannot be provided using conventional CPU+Cache+DRAM architectures. What this means for the hearing aid research community will be a high performance computational platform that will allow computationally expensive DSP algorithms to be developed and then tested in real-time using the same portable platform. The reason why FPGAs are better suited for real-time DSP can be found here. If you are new to FPGAs, click here for an introduction to FPGAs.
Our initial system involves developing an audio daughter card that can plug into a low cost FPGA board. This system will then by integrated on the same printed circuit board (PCB), making it much more compact and portable. It is ultimately envisioned that people will be able to try out the latest hearing-aid algorithms on this portable FPGA hearing-aid system.