June 2019 The Mainichi

A clip-on device that detects audio and enables people with hearing impairments to feel sounds through vibrations and light will go on sale in July, announced IT giant Fujitsu Ltd. With expectations that the product, called "Ontenna," will support such people to sense noises in everyday life, acquire a musical education and engage in other activities, free trial versions are being provided to 118 schools for hearing impaired students across Japan before its release date.

OntennaFujitsu Ltd.'s wearable sound-detecting device "Ontenna" for people with hearing impairments

NanaeJapanese model Nanae, who has a hearing impairment, wears “Ontenna"

Ontenna measures 6.5 centimeters in size and weighs 25 grams. Users can wear the device like a hairclip or an earring, or attach it to the collar or cuff. In real time, the device translates sounds detected by a built-in microphone into 256 different intensity levels of vibration and light, which indicates the loudness, rhythm and patterns of the audio. The device allows people with hearing loss to notice sounds in various situations, such as when a car approaches from behind or when a visitor rings a doorbell. Users can also play music with accurate tempo and intensity, which is difficult for the hearing impaired.

Fujitsu employee Tatsuya Honda, 28, came up with the idea for the product when he mingled with those with hearing impairments as a student in 2012. After a continued process of trial and error at Fujitsu, he was finally able to put the device into production. Honda says that in the future he will introduce new functions, including a system in which Ontenna can pick up only the sounds of a baby crying in a separate room. "I wish to provide it (Ontenna) to the hearing impaired across the world," he commented. Ontenna will be sold online at a cost of around 25,000 yen. The device is also expected to be used by those without hearing loss when watching sports, musical events, esports and on other occasions.

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