Growing up, Renee Kakareka, Founder of Olive Devices, started learning sign language in first grade. Kakareka’s elementary school introduced mainstream deaf and hard of hearing students into their classes as she went into 2nd grade. Looking back, Kakareka saw this as a valuable opportunity learn a language that helps to make communication universal as well as building great friendships. It’s unfortunate how uncommon it is for people to learn sign language, even those that do have differences with hearing.
While a design student in her undergraduate degree at Philadelphia University, Kakareka was paired with an Occupational Therapy Student and a client. Her client was deaf and couldn’t have been a better match for Kakareka. In the course of her study, she learned about Google Glass and how it could assist in communication for deaf and hard of hearing. Kakareka started researching Google Glass, their critiques and capabilities and the concept took off from there.
In the winter of the following year, Kakareka won her first competition - the Business Model Competition at Philadelphia University - and continued to pursue Olive Devices.
During the summer of 2015, after successfully completing the initial project, Kakareka discussed the opportunity for innovation in deaf and hard of hearing education. Learning about how difficult it was for some of her friends to learn while she was in grade school, she knew solutions needed to be put in place to make not only education, but communication accessible for everyone.
"Paying attention in long classes is difficult"
Interview (March 2016):
Cochlear Implant User, Age: 17
She discovered from a lot from people that spread across age groups that discussions in groups often cause auditory fatigue. Auditory fatigue hinders the ability for anyone to pay attention, especially in long lectures.
Knowing these issues exist across most deaf and hard of hearing demographics, and the hearing device industry has not gone too far 'out-of-the-box' yet, the concept needed to go further than a university project.
Olive Devices was formed in February of 2016. We are working on development of a wearable microphone array for localizing and captioning speech to text. However, we hope to progress in continuing development and use augmented reality glasses in the future.
We’ve received dozens of emails expressing gratitude from people all over the world. The potential impact of our product is vast and our business model provides the opportunity to reach an even larger audience.
Silence is the last thing the world
will ever hear from me.
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