Nordic-powered smart badge converts speech to text for the hearing impaired

graphical user interface

Satellite Displays’ Badger smart badge shows wearer’s speech as text, and can translate more than fifty languages

U.S.-based Satellite Displays has launched a closed captioning smart badge that converts the wearer’s speech to text and displays the information on its ‘E Ink’ display, enabling the deaf or hearing-impaired to easily understand what the wearer is saying. The ‘Badger’ smart badge can be clipped on to the user’s clothing or worn on a lanyard, and is in particular designed for use in healthcare settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, and pharmacies.

Badger uses two microphones to transmit what the speaker is saying, and relays the audio data to their paired smartphone using Bluetooth® Low Energy (LE) connectivity provided by I-SYST’s ‘BLYST840’ module powered by Nordic’s multiprotocol nRF52840 SoC. The dual microphone system is used to isolate the speaker’s voice more effectively. From the iOS or Android ‘Badger’ app the audio can be translated into over 50 languages, converted to text, and relayed back to the badge, where it is displayed for the reader. When not being used to display captions, Badger reverts back to an ID badge displaying simple information such as the wearer’s name and job title, even in the absence of power thanks to the E Ink display.

Helping the hearing impaired

“Primarily, this product has been designed to assist those who are deaf or hearing impaired, especially since the prevalence of masks from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has made lip-reading impossible,” says Mike Williston, President and CEO of Satellite Displays. “Masks can also muffle the wearer’s voice, which makes it even harder for those with restricted hearing to discern what is being said.”

The Nordic SoC provides the core performance, lowest power and smallest size we required for our application
Mike Williston, Satellite Displays

When using Badger, the user can choose from three modes. The default ‘Badger Mode’ translates speech to text in near ‘real time’ for others to read like closed captions from the smart badge. ‘Notes Mode’ enables the user to dictate notes to the device which are recorded and can then be edited via the smartphone app and shared through text and email, for example. ‘Text Mode’ operates without the spoken word, allowing the user to type the message on their smartphone keyboard to display it on Badger. This mode is designed to assist those who are unable to speak due to a disability. The user can switch between these modes on the app. 

Miniaturized form factor

The nRF52840 SoC is available in a wafer level chip scale package (WLCSP) enabling the I-SYST BLYST840 module to be supplied in a highly compact 14 by 10 by 1.5 mm form factor, ideal for supporting the Badger smart badge’s space-constrained design. Each module features an on-board ceramic antenna, crystal oscillator, and other peripheral components, as well as up to 46 configurable GPIOs. The nRF52840 SoC’s 1 MB Flash and 256 KB RAM help support the Badger’s E Ink graphics display, while the full-automatic power management system is engineered to maximize battery life and support ultra-low power consumption. 

“We selected the I-SYST module because the Nordic SoC provides the core performance, lowest power and smallest size we required for our application,” says Williston. “The availability of an open source library and the Nordic DevZone were also important resources during development.”