Hearing glasses for Varibel

MMID is celebrating its 25th birthday. In honor of this anniversary, every month we will ask one of our team members to select a project that symbolizes the last 25 years to them. Caspar Steenhuijsen, one of the owners of MMID, talks about the development of hearing glasses for Varibel.

Hearing-impaired people with hearing aids often can’t hear others very well when in a noisy environment. In close collaboration with Varibel, Philips Leuven and several specialised suppliers, MMID developed a product that allows people with an hearing-impairment to hear who they are facing.

Designed on the millimeter

Caspar: “When I joined MMID in the summer of 2004, we just got the assignment to develop a docking station for the hearing glasses of Varibel. In addition, we developed the contact between the ear and the glasses. The development of this connector was especially interesting to me as this required absolute precision, designing down to the millimeter. For this, we worked in close cooperation with the electronics developers of Philips. Together we developed an ear connector with a magnetic, electrical contact. This same contact can be found in my MacBook today, but at that time, it was very innovative. You could say that we were ahead of Apple”.

Caspar Steenhuijsen: “80% of product development is organization.”

Ambitieus project

“I started at MMID as a senior Designer Functionality and in this particular project, I worked on the cutting edge of product development and project organization. My main challenge was to translate the ambitious wishes of the client to a realistic and feasible product. It wasn’t always easy to align the program of demands with all stakeholders involved. I spent most of my time organizing the project and less in actual designing. But you could say that is the case in most of the projects: 80% of product development is organization. It is extremely important to have the right information organized in a manner, so you can make the right decisions together.”

Caspar Steenhuijsen: “A good design can be made by one person, product development is team effort.”

User tests

The target group consists of seniors that wear glasses and suffer from hearing-impairment. Meaning that the target group needs hearing aids next to their glasses. Hearing glasses offer the comfort of glasses, without the discomfort of hearing aids on the side. Daily use is simple. After plugging in the earpieces, the magnetic connection automatically adjusts to the glasses. When you put off your glasses, the connection is released. The hearing glasses can be charged overnight, so it’s ready for the next day. Based on intensive user tests, MMID developed a concept for the docking station, enabling the user to recharge the glasses in an easy way. Caspar: “The user depends on the glasses, without them, he or she can’t see or hear anything. Which makes it extremely important for the user to connect the glasses to the docking station at the bed side table without any problems. It was a complex project, that was only achievable by working intensively together. A good design can be made by one person, product development is team effort. I am extremely proud of the way we designed the miniature system. Looking at Varibels website today and seeing the product in its next stage, it gives me a great feeling. The product made it and we contributed to that.”