Halo – The Power to See Sound

Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyUnited States
2023 People’s Choice Award
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Voting closes at 23:59 EST (EST time: UTC-5) on 5 May 2023.

Connecting, Engaging

Concept / Student


Eden Adler, Jahanara Rahemtulla, Manasi Vaidya, Mari Georgiadis, Sahas Gembali


Halo is a platform of smart products, the first of which is a smart lighted frame that converts household audio signals into light. The Halo frame is a simple and easy to install lighted frame with a sleek and modern design suitable for every home.

Halo is a platform of aesthetic smart picture frames for older adults suffering from hearing loss. When household alerts such as doorbells and fire alarms ring, the Halo smart picture frame lights up alerting the user. Unlike other options in the market, Halo frames are simple to install, do not require maintenance, work out of the box and most importantly do not look like an intimidating medical device. These factors make it easy for family members to package these picture frames as gifts to the patient, and ensure their adoption into their daily lives.

Our interviews with audiologists revealed that patients take nearly 10 years from the time they begin to experience hearing challenges and a lot of social pressure from family members before they seek professional help for their hearing ailments.

Halo empowers older adults and gives them agency to operate individually within their homes despite hearing loss in a respectful manner while protecting their privacy. More importantly with every notification the user can look at a beautiful memory and does not need to focus on their hearing disability.

Project Description

Approximately 1 in 4 adults above the age of 45 suffers from hearing loss, this equates to ~30 Million people in the USA and over 1.5 Billion people globally. According to the CDC, hearing loss is more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. Having a hearing impairment not only impacts a person’s ability to hear but also leads to a variety of social impacts including isolation and cognitive decline. 

Interviews with audiologists revealed that people suffering from hearing loss remain in denial about their hearing challenges; on average it takes them 10 years and a lot of social pressure from family members who suffer in these challenges along with the patient, before they meet an audiologist and get hearing support devices. This is due to the stigma of hearing loss and it creates a sense of shame and isolation to the patients.

Hearing aids are expensive and not included as part of healthcare insurance in a lot of cases. Making them accessible only to the extremely privileged to buy and maintain these devices. Low cost models are often used by the majority of users, they are uncomfortable to use and require frequent battery maintenance. Our conversations with older adults revealed that they don’t like to wear these devices in their ear continuously throughout the day, specifically when they are at home. At home it is important to hear all the sounds like fire alarms, doorbells, delivery van approaching, etc. Older adults with hearing loss are not as tech savvy or do not carry their phone at all times either, this compounds the problem, for them and especially for the family members that live with them.

The current devices in the market that help people with hearing loss at the home, identify household alerts such as doorbells and fire alarms are difficult to maintain, look extremely intimidating, do not protect their privacy and the complex installation often requires the patient to invite a servicing company executive or a family member to help with the set-up. 

Our product Halo is a set of aesthetic smart picture frames that light up when home alerts such as the doorbell and fire alarm rings. They do not require maintenance, work out of the box, and are scalable to have as many picture frames as the home needs. These frames do not look like intimidating medical devices, but look like a piece of decor for your home thus maintaining their privacy. As a picture frame, family members can include family photos that make this product easy to adopt by the patient who is hard of hearing.

We used an iterative human-centered design process where we interviewed adults who are hard of hearing, the family members who live with them as well as experts in the field of audiology to build a robust list of user needs and the complex stakeholder dynamics. We then prototyped and tested our product with potential users and customers for feedback.


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