A new Chair at ETS

Inauguration of the NSERC-EERS Industrial Chair in In-Ear Technologies

July 4, 2017
École de technology supérieure (ÉTS) is proud to announce the launch of the NSERC-EERS Industrial Research Chair in In-Ear Technologies (CRITIAS).

Approximately 100 people gathered for the inauguration ceremony, which was held on Tuesday, June 13, 2017, at the ÉTS Maison des étudiants (Student House). Partners, students and researchers, along with the entire CRITIAS team, were delighted to attend the celebratory event marking the launch.

Created in September 2016, CRITIAS strives to develop technologies designed to protect the human ear and allow for communication in high-noise environments, design wearable hearing diagnostics and eventually develop integrated in-ear brain-computer interfaces.

The Chair would not exist without financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which is a federal government agency, and from the provincial government, via the programme de financement de la recherche et développement en technologie de l’information et de la communication (PROMPT – ICT R&D financing program). Additional funding for the infrastructures for CRITIAS comes from ÉTS, EERS and the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation.

This Chair is the fruit of a long-lasting collaboration between the Chairholder, Jérémie Voix, who is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at ÉTS, and EERS, which financed a first industrial chair between 2010 and 2015. These years of working together produced the development of a unique technology that protects industrial workers against hearing loss and allows them to communicate in high-noise environments, which is now protected by more than twenty patents.

According to Nick Laperle, Founder of EERS: “This is an excellent example of how a small company can carry out cutting-edge research. Thanks to the financial support that it has received, this new Chair can continue its work, which will allow it to create a number of new products.” EERS, which employs 16 people, is housed at the INGO Innovation Centre at ÉTS, where it will soon be sharing the 7th floor with CRITIAS

Highly ambitious research

The first Chair had less than 10 full-time student researchers, whereas the new Chair will be backed by a team totalling 24 master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers and research professionals, and will have an available budget of close to $4 million over 5 years. Historically, this is the third NSERC industrial chair at ÉTS, and is among 175 such projects in Canada.

Jérémie Voix affirmed: “I am delighted to have the means to continue our research and increase the knowledge base in this field, which will be of immense benefit to all of society. In addition, the Chair will enable a Québec-based SME to grow and continue to innovate, and we will be able to train students and ensure succession in the field of “Hearables”, which is only in its infancy.”

The CRITIAS team will focus on three areas of research. The first is the development of advanced digital hearing-protection solutions for use in high-noise environments, and especially in industrial settings. The researchers will also focus on improving devices that allow for communication while protecting hearing, despite the ambient noise. The third area of research is the most innovative, because it falls into the emerging field of in-ear biosensing. Given that a variety of physiological signals (pulse beats, blood flow, respiration, etc.) are perceptible inside the ear, the real-time analysis of these in-ear signals may open the door to numerous applications, from monitoring workers (e.g.: airline pilots] to telemedicine applications for the elderly. The team has also recently demonstrated that it is possible to measure brain waves through electroencephalography (EEG) inside the ear, which increases the number of possible biomedical applications even more.
Finally, the ultimate goal of the researchers at CRITIAS is to combine all of these communication and biosensing functions into a single earpiece that can eventually become an integrated in-ear brain-computer interface that will allow man and machine to connect in a natural and transparent manner.

ÉTS wishes CRITIAS and its industrial partner, EERS, the greatest of success, in the hope that this project will lead to the development of numerous applications that will benefit all of society.

About EERS

Founded in Montréal in 2015, EERS works in cooperation with ÉTS to develop cutting-edge devices to protect the hearing health of workers. The new industrial earpieces that it has created feature a unique integrated communication and monitoring technology. EERS has developed and validated its technology over the last 10 years, and has obtained more than twenty patents to protect its invention and its intellectual property. The Company was ranked first in the 2016 edition of the U.S. Department of Labour’s international “Hear and Now” Noise Safety Challenge competition, and garnered the Gold medal at the 2017 edition of the Edison Awards, which have been recognizing and rewarding the most promising innovations around the world since 1987.

 ETS chair
In the usual order: Claude Perras, Executive Director of the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation; Nick Laperle, Founder of EERS; Jérémie Voix, CRITIAS Chairholder; Charles Gauvin, President and CEO of EERS; Pierre Dumouchel, Director General of ÉTS.

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