What do you do at Eriksholm?
“I am a Principal Scientist here. Given my broad experience I take part in many projects as consultant, but I also want to get my hands dirty, so to speak: I also love doing my own research. I think my dream – or my motivation – most times, is making the world’s best hearing aid. That is what I strive for.”
How long have you worked here for?
“I came here in 1991 and did my PhD in sound quality in hearing aids, predicting or modelling sound quality in hearing aids. After that, I left the company for a few years to do other things on Danish Radio among other ventures. In 2000, I came back to the Oticon headquarters, and worked with audiology and development of algorithms for hearing aids. In 2012 I got to a point where I wanted to work more independently and more in-depth and was fortunate enough to be able to transfer to Eriksholm Research Centre. I have been here ever since.”
Tell us about some of the projects and studies you have participated in.
“I started out working mostly in an area called “the Enigma project”. It was primarily a research project in temporal fine structure, which is – in other words - the pitch of your voice or the pitch of a melody. Things like that are contained in the temporal fine structure, and people with hearing loss have great difficulty using and discerning this pitch. I was also somewhat involved in binaural hearing projects, and binaural algorithms, which is how you combine the processing of two hearing devices to get the full benefit of the soundscape around you. I also created the competing voice test, to test how difficult speech segregation is for hearing impaired people and how advanced signal processing may help. So that material is public now and is being used in many areas of the hearing research industry. These days I spend most of my time working with deep neural networks. That is, using machine learning to solve the users’ challenges when listening to multiple people talking at the same time, known as ‘competing voices’. We have made important publications in this field. That connects loosely to my early work, I suppose, as it is the same problem, we are trying to solve but using very different techniques.”
What do you like the most about working at Eriksholm Research Centre?
“I think what motivated me to come to Eriksholm, was that I wanted to have more freedom to operate, and more time for contemplation. So, I appreciate having this freedom to decide every day, in which order I do my tasks, and how much time I invest in them. In that sense I can really plan my own work and decide what is important to our goals, and what is less important. Add to that the fact that we are not working with short-term or product-focused deadlines, which allows us to really think big, and allows us to be very creative and visionary in our work.”
What are the three most important values in your life?
- “Responsibility – Being responsible is important. Both being responsible towards myself, and towards other people. I want to be perceived as a loyal, trustworthy person.
- – This is something I live by every day. I think it is important to make the most of every day I get. Sometimes I quote the Danish singer Thomas Helmig, who said “Basically I’m here to have a good time.”
- Creation – I am a creative, productive person. So, to create something and leave a footprint somehow, whether it be with my family, my home or my work, is very important to me. To leave a footprint of some kind, in other words. I can’t help it, somehow. I must create things.”
What do you hope will happen in future science?
“I think I look at this from a very global perspective. I hope science can provide a better quality of life for all of us. I just hope that we can control it, with all this talk about artificial intelligence and machine learning. And I hope we can reach our goals in a way that is ethical and sustainable. I do not subscribe to an idea of a singular science, such as self-driving cars saving the world. It will have to be a mix of many different efforts in different industries.”
What is the most exciting scientific breakthrough in your life time?
“On a professional level, I have to say the invention of the transistor, and then the chip. The chip is the basis for everything we have done since, in both computers, hearing aids, cameras, and just about everything else. Of course, there is also the internet and everything it has brought with it. I think that was such a game-changer. If I look back at how it used to be when I got my first engineering job in Los Angeles thirty years ago, all I could do to reach my family was writing letters or calling on the phone. To imagine that today, that you could not just make a video call or send an e-mail, is almost incomprehensible to my kids for example. Another more recent thing is the fact that we now have the tools to explore the universe beyond our own solar system and even discover new planets there. I mean, it has a lot to do with both chips and the internet, but when I was a child, we had just put the first man on the moon, so the speed at which space exploration has developed is just amazing.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“Well, I am very active, for one. I swim, run, and bike at every chance I get and hence compete in Triathlons. I have completed two full Ironman races, and there is more, perhaps shorter, racing to come. So, I really like that, and spend a lot of time with a local club in Elsinore, which shares that interest. I came from cycling primarily, so that is also something I really like. Particularly cycling in the mountains; all over Southern Europe. But you can see me commuting to Eriksholm by bike year-round, regardless of the weather, this is also saving our environment. And then I’m quite a handyman, so I also enjoy building and crafting things at home, where I also get to hang out with my wife and two adult daughters.”