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3D-games for TUNing and lEarnINg about hearing aids

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - 3D Tune-In (3D-games for TUNing and lEarnINg about hearing aids)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

Hearing loss is an inevitable part of the ageing process from around 25-30 years old. As the average age of Europe’s population is increasing, with expectations by 2050 of two fifths being over 50 years old, demand for assistive hearing devices also is expected to grow. Hearing Aid (HA) technology has dramatically advanced in the last 25 years, since the commercialization of the first digital hearing aid. Nevertheless, this technological advancement is not always accessible or accessed by the hearing impaired population. The majority of individuals with hearing aids use the device as if it was a standard analogue hearing aid, i.e. only for its amplification and equalisation features, and new algorithms are under-used or not exploited to their full potential. Hearing impairment in older adults can lead to frustration, low esteem, withdrawal and social inclusion. Further to these, in children, hearing loss affects speech and language development that impacts on academic achievement and future vocational choices.

Traditional gaming technologies have been successfully employed in non-leisure scenarios for learning and skill acquisition, empowerment and social inclusion. The challenge of 3D Tune-In is to facilitate the successful exploitation of existing, overlooked or neglected functionalities of hearing devices to optimise their potential thus greatly improving people’s quality of life, and their interactions with other people and their surrounding environment.

Bringing together the relevant stakeholders from traditional gaming industries (SMEs - Reactify, Vianet, XTeam, Nerlaska), academic institutes (Imperial College London, De Montfort University, the University of Nottingham, the University of Malaga); a large European hearing aid manufacturer (GN Hearing); and hearing communities (through Associations - Extra Care, Hearing Link, Action Deafness, Accesibilidad y Personas Sordas and Ente Nazionale Sordi), 3D Tune-In will create a Toolkit and five different games - tailored to different target audiences and focusing on different situations - that will help end-users in optimising the usage of their hearing device. In doing so, 3D Tune-In envisages to impact the lives of those suffering from hearing impairment - countering social exclusion and increasing life quality - while simultaneously increasing awareness about hearing loss among the general public. The project is expected to last 36 months, concluding May 2018.
During its second year of activity, the 3D Tune-In (3DTI) project has progressed according to plan. All deliverables have been submitted on time and all milestones have been completed in accordance with the 3DTI’s Description of Action (DoA).

The second year started with a plenary meeting in Malaga, and was soon followed by the first delivery of the 3DTI Toolkit (WP2). The output from WP1 (stakeholder requirements, system concept and specifications) informed the work on the 3DTI Applications development in WP3, which resulted in the delivery of a first and then a second set of prototypes during the course of the second year.

Each prototype delivery was then followed by an evaluation stage, coordinated within WP4, which allowed to feed back comments, suggestions, corrections, etc. to the WP3 development.

The activities within WP5 (communication and dissemination) focussed on the maintenance of the 3DTI website, on scientific dissemination (e.g. conferences) and on the creation of additional dissemination material for the 3DTI Toolkit and Applications.
WP6 (exploitation) has been also very active towards the creation of an exploitation plan, coordinating discussions among project partners about IPR and commercial/non-commercial exploitation of the Toolkit and of the Applications.

Finally, WP7 ensured the coordination of the whole project, overseeing the WP activities, organising regular meetings for the various committees, as well as a further plenary meeting which took place in Montegrotto Terme (Italy).

We are now looking forward to the third and final year of the project, which will see the delivery and final evaluation of the 3DTI Applications, the 'opening' of the source code for the 3DTI Toolkit, and the final workshop to launch the Toolkit and Applications.
From a technological standpoint, the aim of 3DTI is to produce three sets of items that represent an advancement beyond the state of the art, and will be exploited during and after the project:
1 - High-level code (3DTI toolkit, which will be released as open source);
2 - Applications produced by the SMEs and Industry partners. Here, some of the companies are leaning towards freely distributing their application(s), while some other ones prefer selling their application(s) to generate financial revenues;
3 - Several wrappers, which will facilitate the use of the Toolkit in certain specific development environments (e.g. Unity, Javascript, etc.), which will be distributed either for free or for a small fee.

So far 3DTI has delivered a a full working version of the 3DTI Toolkit (M15), which will be regularly updated through the course of the project, and has started the development of the 3DTI applications and wrappers (two prototypes have already been released internally for evaluation purposes).

In terms of socio-economic impact, 3DTI activities have mainly focussed on disseminating the general project description and aims, involving all stakeholders (e.g. academic, developer and end-user communities) in the participatory design (WP1) and evaluation (WP4) stages. It is early to talk about socio-economic impact, and elements to evaluate the project success in terms of societal implications are not yet available. Nevertheless, the 3DTI consortium has been involved in several engagement and dissemination events, making sure that the relevant parties are informed and kept updated about the project activities.
3D Tune-In consortium at the kick-off meeting