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11 September, 2023 - 01:50 By Tony Quested

Cambridge audio software company launches £400k crowdfunding campaign

Cambridge-based audio software company AudioTelligence has launched a £400k crowdfunding campaign in a move designed to get its breakthrough hearing technology into the hands of people who struggle to hear in noisy environments. 

Trials of its Orsana prototype have led to a flood of enquiries from individuals who suffer from the so-called ‘cocktail party problem’.

Research by Harris Interactive found that more than 80 per cent of adults aged between 40 and 64 find it difficult to follow conversations in noisy cafes, pubs and restaurants. 

AudioTelligence’s crowdfunding goal is earmarked to fund the manufacture of an initial batch of 1,000 Orsana tabletop devices with accompanying wireless earbuds. Supporters of the campaign will be rewarded with one of the first devices off the production line. The aim is then to scale production quickly to meet the pent-up demand. 

“We have been inundated with enquiries from consumers and audiologists keen to know when our technology will be available,” said AudioTelligence CEO Sue Handley Jones.

“So we have decided to take matters into our own hands and manufacture Orsana ourselves – funding the production through this crowdfunding campaign. Our unwavering belief in the tremendous benefits of our technology drives our passion to make it accessible to everyone who needs it.”

Orsana is a small, lightweight device that uses built-in microphones and advanced algorithms to separate speech from noise. All the user has to do is place the device on a table and clear speech will be delivered to the accompanying wireless earbuds. The device also mutes the user’s own voice to avoid any echo issues. 

The secret of Orsana’s success lies in a different approach from traditional hearing solutions which use techniques such as beamforming and digital noise reduction – these are imprecise and can distort voices and introduce unwanted noises. 

Orsana uses AudioTelligence’s patented blind source separation and noise suppression technologies to ensure high performance and low latency of just 50ms to avoid ‘lip sync’ issues. In a typical cafe or restaurant setting, Orsana has been shown to increase speech understanding from five per cent to 98 per cent. 

Tony Roberts, who took part in one of the Orsana trials, said: “With Orsana taking care of the noise, I can chat with my friends and family without struggling to hear what they are saying – even in noisy pubs and restaurants,.

“It is probably difficult for people who don’t suffer from the cocktail party problem to appreciate just what a major breakthrough this device is. It is a real game changer for me.”

Business Weekly understands from sources close to the company that it could have progressed with VC backing but views differed regarding which route to market would be most effective. The company says the crowdfunding route allows the business to meet its own targets without external pressure on exit timing. And the company can fulfil its vision of getting the product into the hands of people who have been asking for it for a while now.

In 2020, AudioTelligence raised a further Series A funding in a round led by Octopus Ventures with participation from existing backers Cambridge Innovation Capital, Cambridge Enterprise, and CEDAR Audio. The company was founded in 2017 as a spin-out from University of Cambridge-founded CEDAR Audio.

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