From Jim Pitkow:
Today, I’m thrilled to be joining Doppler Labs as Chief Scientist, where I’ll be leading our hearing health, IP, and machine learning efforts. By pushing the boundaries of human-computer interaction, and through a combined approach of advanced signal processing, machine learning, data science and an acute lens on accessibility, we believe we can use Doppler’s technology to change hearing health stigmas and redefine how people use hearing solutions.
Since its founding, Doppler Labs has been deeply committed to democratizing hearing technology and de-stigmatizing what it means to wear tech in our ears. We’ve always wanted to create groundbreaking technology that’s accessible for “all ears.” As someone who shares this vision, I’m particularly excited to take on this challenge with an incredible, cross-disciplinary team of machine learning experts from Palantir, audio engineers from Dolby and Apple, and our Director of Accessibility and Advocacy, KR Liu.
Since the earliest days of my career—dating back to when I prototyped some of the first uses of the web for NASA—I’ve been focused on using innovation in tech for social good. I spent time developing the first web analytics for the GVU Center at Georgia Tech and later joined the team at Xerox PARC as a research scientist. This passion for social good fueled my taste for entrepreneurship, where I went on to lead the spinout of a personalized search company that Google acquired. Since then, I’ve helped other companies like Facebook and Cloudera during their formative stages and led other startups. Most recently, I was the CTO of Metabiota, where we employed supercomputing-strength infectious disease models. The opportunity to join Doppler Labs on its mission to create accessible technology for all ears aligned perfectly with my career path and passion, so when I was asked to join, I couldn’t turn it down.
As Chief Scientist, I’ll be bringing my academic background and multidisciplinary experience to help Doppler continue to push the boundaries of how humans interact with and control sound, with a focus on hearing health accessibility and advocacy. Within my team, we’ll be doubling down on our “machine hearing” back-end initiatives (including Smart Suggest), next-level acoustics, and academic research partnerships, specifically for the hard of hearing community. And with forthcoming legislation like the bipartisan Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, which Senator Elizabeth Warren Senator Chuck Grassley re-introduced last week, it’s an especially exciting time to be looking at how we can bring technological innovation to the hearing health space.
In the wake of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, I went to D.C. with KR to meet with the co-authors of this bill. Because of her work in the disability and tech communities, KR was recruited by Senator Warren’s team to help build support and advocate for the bill with other members of Congress. Together, we met with eleven members of Congress from both parties to express Doppler’s support of the OTC Act and to discuss how new entrants in the market could offer more affordable and accessible technological solutions to consumers. It was incredible to see bipartisan support for the legislation, and I’m more optimistic than ever for the future of the hearing device space.
At Doppler Labs, we’ve always believed that everyone has a fundamental right to accessible hearing solutions.
At Doppler Labs, we’ve always believed that everyone has a fundamental right to accessible hearing solutions. No one should be ashamed of what they put in their ears, whether it’s a headphone, bluetooth headset, or device for hearing amplification or reduction. We believe that technological innovation is key to opening up consumer choices in the hearing health space. The decades-old process for buying hearing aids has been relatively unchanged, allowing the six largest hearing aid manufacturers to control 98% of the global market at the expense of fostering new entrants and free market competition. The result is that hearing aids—which can cost upwards of $5,000 each and aren’t covered by insurance—have remained the de facto option for the nearly 48 million people living with hearing loss (and these numbers don’t even take into account the 1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss worldwide). Most shocking, less than fifteen percent of those affected actually use hearing aids due to high cost, lack of access, and social stigma.
We can do better, and as Chief Scientist at Doppler, my mission is not only to be at the forefront of changing the way we interact with technology, but also how society views hearing health and hearing solutions. We know that we have something truly differentiated with the technology found in the Here One™ system, specifically, features like speech enhancement, directionality, and our personal Listening Profile. We also know that with the Here Buds™ wireless earbuds, along with Doppler’s advocacy and accessibility efforts, we have the potential to lead the charge in de-stigmatization.
Here One is just the beginning. And with the momentum behind the OTC Hearing Aid Act, we’re on the precipice of major change for tech and for consumers. We owe it to everybody, and to the community who needs just a little more help hearing to provide better service, particularly in the way of putting people back in control of what they hear. I’m honored to be part of Doppler Labs and particularly proud to be leading this charge.