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Hearing aid is semi-finalist for "Modern Marvel"

June 7, 2006

KALAMAZOO--A hearing device developed by a Kalamazoo businessman with the help of a Western Michigan University engineering student was recently named a semi-finalist in The History Channel's Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge.

Known as the "Liperator," the computerized device attaches to a telephone and uses sound from the phone to generate realistic lip movements on a video screen, enabling someone with a hearing impairment to lip-read their phone conversation.

The Liperator was one of 25 semi-finalists in the contest. There were more than 4,000 entries, with 100 given honorable mentions. Four inventions were named finalists and one was chosen as the 2006 Modern Marvel of the Year. All of the inventions named as finalists and semi-finalists were included in an exhibition traveling across the country to five major cities. The exhibit currently is at the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.

The Liperator was developed in the early 1990s by Yair Mendelowitsch, who was then studying for a master's degree in electrical engineering at WMU, and Robert P. Slager, then a hearing aid specialist at the Hearing Aid Center of Kalamazoo. Slager came up with the idea for the product and enlisted the aid of the WMU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Slager's idea came from his own experience. After he began losing his hearing, he learned to lip-read, but could not do that over the phone. He began looking for ways to make lip-reading over the phone possible. Mendelowitsch received his master's degree from WMU in 1991.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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