From the first of November onwards, knowledge institution Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and globally leading hearing aid manufacturer GN Hearing will join forces in FEPlab. The lab is dedicated to ameliorating the participation of hearing-impaired people in both formal and informal settings.
FEPlab will focus its research on transferring a leading physics/neuroscience-based theory about computation in the brain, the Free Energy Principle (FEP), to practical use in human-centered agents such as hearing devices and VR technology. FEP is a general theory of information processing and decision-making in brains that is rooted in thermodynamics. The principle states that biological agents must take actions (or decisions) that minimize their (variational) free energy which is a measure of the amount of total prediction error in a system. Practically, by minimizing free energy, the agent takes actions that optimally balance information-seeking behavior (reduce uncertainties) against goal-driven behavior. Theoretical foundations for AI application of FEP-based synthetic agents have been produced by BIASlab at TU/e. In the current endeavor, FEPlab is focused to bring FEP-based AI agents to the professional hearing device industry. Professor Bert de Vries, the scientific director of FEPlab alongside Associate Professor Jaap Ham, believes FEP-based synthetic agents have much to offer to signal processing systems:
”I believe that development of signal processing systems will in the future be largely automated by autonomously operating agents that learn purposeful (signal processing) behavior from situated environmental interactions.”Bert de Vries, Scientific Director FEPlab
Expertise and Focus
FEPlab will comprise experts from different fields of expertise such as Audiology, Autonomous Agents & Robotics, Decision Making, and Machine Learning to tackle the complex multidisciplinary challenges at hand. The lab will employ five PhD students at TU/e, of which four will join the BIASlab research group in the EE department and one PhD student will join the Human-Technology Interaction group at the IE&IS department. Key research topics include reactive message passing for robust inference, generative probabilistic models for audio processing, and interaction design for hearing aid personalization.
Sustainable Development Goals
FEPlab will focus on two SDGs. Firstly, the research goals of the lab resonate with SDG 3 focused on Good Health and Well-being since untreated hearing loss in the elderly increases the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as emotional and physical problems. Secondly, the lab’s research goals also support SDG 8 of achieving higher levels of economic productivity through technology upgrading and innovation as hearing loss is also shown to affect work participation negatively.