Niels Henrik Pontoppidan

Research Area Manager,Augmented Hearing
Niels has been a part of Eriksholm Research Centre since 2005, when he came to the centre to apply his research in algorithms to make a difference for people with hearing impairment.

What do you do at Eriksholm?

“On a typical day at Eriksholm, I spend my time managing the Augmented Hearing research group, keeping our various projects and activities moving forward. I also spend time outlining new projects, and finally, I spend a lot of time talking to colleagues and academic partners”

For how long have you been working here?

“I came to Eriksholm in 2005. My dream was to work in a context where my research in algorithms would make a difference. I expected Eriksholm and Oticon to be able to fulfill this, and that expectation has only been confirmed since.”

What surprised you the most, when you started at Eriksholm?

“My biggest surprise came shortly after I began working here. My second assignment was implementation of a research prototype in machine code. Being a researcher, having been hired to study algorithms, an implementation task was surprising; but I picked up the gauntlet, and it gave me deep insight into the inner workings of a hearing aid, and how the algorithms I research are actually physically applied within the final product. Looking back at it now, it is a task I would not have been without; the hands-on learning was absolutely invaluable.”

What do you like the most about working at Eriksholm Research Centre?

“I love the atmosphere at Eriksholm Research Centre. There is very much a sense of a common goal, making fundamental improvements in future hearing care. This is a goal we strive to accomplish, not only as individuals but also as a team. There’s always someone nearby willing to lend a hand, always someone you can spar with, and everybody has this ‘learning attitude’ where we turn everything into a learning point, even when we do not get the results we expected to get.. A bright outlook is very much the essence of Eriksholm, and that is a very nice atmosphere to work in.”

Where do you see Eriksholm Research Centre in five years?

“I honestly cannot tell you. Research in hearing care, and particularly my field, is moving ahead at a breakneck pace. We investigate significant problems with enormous potential to become successful solutions. We pursue innovation, new ideas, not just marginal improvements on existing ones. Hopefully, five years from now, we might have a hearing aid that can separate the competing voices that people with hearing impairment cannot separate today.”

What is the most exciting scientific breakthrough in your life time?

“Deep learning, without a doubt. It accelerates every single area within the field of hearing care. That counts for speech processing, personalization, measurement of brain signals, etc. Recently, Deep learning has taken the step from classification of photos and faces into generating photos and sound. Take a look at Google’s Deep Dream that generates marvelous pictures, Google’s speech synthesis using WaveNets whose sound quality is so far from what we usually experience with the GPS. I could keep on, as Deep learning has applications both within, and far beyond our research areas, and it is crucial to so much of the work we have done here.”

What do you do in your spare time?

“I have played the piano since I was eight years old. I think that is why I have been so engaged in the Music & Cochlear Implants Symposium. I like to go for runs, to stay on top of my health. Additionally, I like to cheer my kids on when they are out playing handball. Both my children are avid handball players, and so we end up travelling far and wide across the country for tournaments and friendly games. When summer comes around, our family likes to head out with a family tent in the trunk. It’s just the four of us, and the plan is a sketch with room for improvisation. It is a wonderful experience, which I can only recommend.”

You can learn much more about Niels on his personal LinkedIn page.