Ontenna is a brand new device which is worn on the hair like a hairpin, and through vibrations and light, will transmit the unique features of sound to the user. The concept of this device is to "experience sound through strands of hair, much like the whiskers of a cat can sense movements in the air," and has been developed in co-operation with deaf persons.
By converting sound pressure in the range of 30dB to 90dB into 256 levels of vibrations and light intensity, the unique features of a sound are transmitted to the user. By converting the cadence pattern of a sound source in real time into vibrations and light, a user can experience the sensation of a sound's rhythms, its patterns, and its volume.
The Ontenna project was launched with the theme "to expand the human body and its senses," and together with deaf persons, we set out to research and develop a new audio sensory device.
Thanks to a chance meeting with a deaf person at a culture festival during freshman year at university, I decided to volunteer as a sign language translator and started up an NPO.
Having taken an interest in expanding the body’s capabilities and human senses, I began research on a new user interface which used design and technology to perceive sounds.
After receiving selection as a 2014 Mitou Project, I embarked on miniaturizing the Ontenna device, and conducted interviews with deaf persons in various regions.
By using Ontenna, I learned that a deaf person can distinguish the differences between the sound of an intercom with a telephone through rhythms and patterns of the sound, or detect whether the electrical plug of a vacuum cleaner had become unplugged from its socket.
After receiving requests from deaf persons that they "wanted to wear the device somewhere other than in their hair," I produced the "Ontenna earring," which can be worn on the ear lobe and will convey sounds through vibrations.
Testimony from a deaf person who had lost his hearing soon after birth: "If I had this device 42 years ago, I could have practiced the flute by myself at home."
After joining Fujitsu, together with professional designers, engineers, and deaf persons, I launched the Ontenna project in earnest.
During an Ontenna-themed workshop at TechShop, I openly solicited ideas and suggestions from not only deaf persons, but from a great many people.
After conducting a thorough re-examination of the basic design, I endeavored to create a truly accessible user interface for deaf persons.
By making Ontenna programmable, so that it can become compatible with a variety of situations necessary for users, our goal is to evolve this device so that it can create new sensory experiences.
An earring type Ontenna
The wearer can sense vibrations on their ear lobe.
A necklace type Ontenna
The wearer can use the device as part of their fashion ensemble.
An Ontenna for dancers
The wearer can practice their dancing alone, by sensing rhythms.
An Ontenna for musical instrumentalists
This device can provide support for performances and tuning by reacting to specified sound pitches.
Ontenna can help convey the atmosphere of a location
The wearer can sense the atmosphere of venues such as an Olympics or a live concert.
Experience the sounds of a movie through Ontenna
The wearer will be able to experience sound effects and the sounds of laughter while watching a movie.
Currently we are developing a function primarily for recognition of sound intervals. With this feature, it may become possible for users in the future to sense the tone and timbre of a sound.
Ontenna is an "open innovation" project involving many people from around the world. Our belief is that anyone can become involved with Ontenna, and that together, with everyone's help, we can make it an even better device.