21 September 2019
Shin Doo-sik (left), president of Haebora, demonstrates the ear talk device with a colleague.  Photo: EJ Insight
Shin Doo-sik (left), president of Haebora, demonstrates the ear talk device with a colleague. Photo: EJ Insight

Start-up to launch ‘ear talk’ device with funding from TriBeluga

A noise-insulating product made by a firm funded by Chinese incubator TriBeluga will allow people to talk on the phone even amid the deafening noise of a construction site or a plane taking off.

The “ear talk” product, developed by Haebora, a Korean start-up, will be further enhanced to be used in hearing aids, an industry with a fast-growing market globally, said Lili Luo, president of TriBeluga.

Luo said TriBeluga was attracted to Haebora because the start-up focuses on tech products that can be applied in the health, education and environment sectors to make life better for people.

When we speak, about 90 percent of the sound we make is emitted through our mouth, but a small fraction comes out from our ear holes through the auditory tube that links the throat and the ear.

The ear talk device, which looks like an ordinary earbud, contains a speaker and a microphone.

The speaker enables the user to hear the voice of the person on the other side of the phone line, while the microphone collects the sound that comes out from the user’s ear.

The device will work well even at a noise level of 110 decibels, the equivalent of the noise in a factory or a plane taekeoff, said Shin Doo-sik, president of Haebora.

The firm is in talks with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Apple Inc. about launching the product, which is covered by 76 patents and also counts Posco Venture Capital Corp., Korea’s sixth-largest private equity firm, as an investor.

The product is expected to be released to the market by the end of the year, Shin said.

Haebora is among the first batch of Korean start-ups that will soon move into TriBeluga’s incubator office in Sinsa-dong in Seoul, as TriBeluga eyes the numerous overseas technology firms that want to break into the China market.

Besides angel funds of between US$100,000 and US$300,000, TriBeluga will also give the firms under its wing sales and marketing support and professional advice on legal issues when entering the China market, in return for a stake in the start-ups.

“China is a booming market for high tech … we are the only one who has an international team aiming at the China market,” Luo said.

“Let us prove what we can do in Korea first. In the next stage, we will also open incubators in Silicon Valley and Beijing, then we will help Chinese start-ups to break into the US and Korea, US start-ups into China and Korea, and Korean start-ups into China and the US,” she said.

“The incubators in Silicon Valley and Beijing will be launched very soon … there will be some great news this year.”

Her remarks came despite a delay in the launching of TriBeluga’s Beijing office.

Luo said the concept of an international incubator is still new to the Chinese people and officials.

So far, TriBeluga has invested in only two start-ups since the launch of its incubator office in Seoul in October, the first being Haebora, and the other V touch.

While Haebora’s is a more mature technology, V touch is in its early stages and is expected to need a development period of one to one-and-a-half years, Luo said.

V touch aims to allow users to control devices without physically touching them, by tracking the user’s eyes and fingers with a 3D camera.

“It’s like in a movie that depicts the future. A [virtual] screen is projected, and the characters just point in the air without using the [physical] screen of a computer,” Luo said.

“The technology is already applied in some movie theaters, but it can be further developed to be applied in the pharmaceutical field and for handicapped people,” she said.

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EJ Insight reporter