Alongside this year’s Silicon Gorge: Autumn Edition we’re publishing profiles of a few of the companies that have made it through to the heats. Up next is Consumer Tech & MedTech Earswitchcheck out the full list of winners here!

Answering our questions today is Founder Nick Gompertz (pictured right).

1 – What does your company do?

Earswitch is unlocking control for your electronic devices from your earphones by “eAR Control”. Earphones enabled with “The eAR Control” sensor will replace your computer mouse, control your mobile phone, provide a new 3 Dimensional interface for AR and VR headsets and replace health and fitness monitoring, all from usual consumer earphones.

2 – What problem are you trying to solve?

Everyone is busy and anything that interrupts us is a distraction; putting down the shopping and taking out your mobile phone to answer it, stopping to “skip a track” when you are mowing the lawn, tapping your smart earphone to “pause” to reply to a question, stopping your best mountain bike run to switch on your HeadCam and taking your hands off the keyboard to move the cursor with the mouse.

Everyone wants just one more control; an extra handsfree control for a computer game, and a faster one, and a way of controlling AR and VR headsets without strange hand gestures.

Many people want to monitor their health and fitness, but current sensors on watches and earphones are affected by movement and don’t give reliable oxygen levels in people of all skin colours.

More importantly – some people just want to communicate. If you have Motor Neurone Disease, are Locked-in after a stroke or have severe cerebral palsy.

The eAR Control sensor in your standard earphone (or hearing aid) will address all these problems by providing control and monitoring. No need for a separate interface/mouse/control for each device, and with continuous and reliable health & fitness monitoring thrown in.

3 – What makes your solution unique?

The eAR Control sensor is a patented sensor that detects movements of your ear-drum; providing control, and health and fitness monitoring, all from one sensor embedded in standard earphones and hearing aids.

These movements give control— a switch, like a mouse-click (by detecting voluntary movement of the ear-drum), eye-tracking (because your ear-drums move with eye movements), detecting what you are focusing on (visual focus, because both eyes and ear-drums move inwards when you focus on something close). Movements from the ear-drum also show us your pulse, breathing movements and blood pressure (PAT). The ear-drum is the only easily accessible site where we can measure reliable oxygen levels for all people of all skin colours—— so The eAR Control sensor provides an answer for a major racial health inequality caused by inaccurate oxygen measurements for people with COVID.

Equally importantly The eAR Control sensor is the first communication aid for people with conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease to communicate from their earphones by controlling on-screen keyboards in a similar way to the late Professor Stephen Hawking.

Meet Earswitch

" More importantly - some people just want to communicate. If you have Motor Neurone Disease, are Locked-in after a stroke or have severe cerebral palsy. "

— Nick Gompertz, Founder

4 – What are you most proud of so far?

The eAR Control concept was initially developed as a simple switch (The Earswitch) to help people communicate better. I developed a working Earswitch in earphones whilst working as a full time GP, which is able to control the on-screen keyboards that the late Professor Stephen Hawking used.

This innovation was driven, not just for people with motor neurone disease, but specifically inspired by a non-verbal 13 year old boy who wrote a book simply by looking at letters on a physical spelling board, because his involuntary movements mean he can’t use eye-tracking technologies.

We have regulatory and clinical trials hoops to jump through yet, but we will be proud if we can enable even one person to communicate.

5 – How much are you raising and what do you want to use investment for?

We are raising £500k to expand the team, protect our international IP and spin out patents, and to produce demonstrator “Gamer’s Earswitch” to send to Gamer’s influencers within 6 months. This will validate product market fit; giving us traction to license to this sector, with subsequent expected avalanche of validation in all market sectors.

We are an Innovation and R&D Tech Company and our market strategy is not to compete with the incumbents in each technology sector, but work with them to license to big players in each of the multiple global sectors.

The “Asssitive Earswitch” for communication is being developed in a parallel grant funded process — with current funding from a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) i4i Connect grant, working with University of Bath, and a follow on application for the NIHR i4i Product Development Grant in progress.

6 – What tools/people/services/organisations helped you most?

University of Bath’s Digital Business Accelerator Hub was the catalyst for our progress. A chance series of introductions through a friend, a mentor and then the entrepeneur in residence (Garry Pratt) allowed me to link in with interested academics and started the route to validation. It also linked Earswitch Ltd with the fantastic resources of SETsquared. A separate academic collaboration with Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, has also been pivotal.

7 – Where can we find out more about you?

A great summary at the start of our NIHR funded work with the University of Bath is here.

Feature image: EarSwitch with the University of Bath academic team.

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.