Tokyo – Ontenna is designed to enable deaf and hard of hearing people to experience sound through light and vibrations.
Developed by personal computer equipment company Fujitsu, the wearable headpiece uses a microphone to turn sound into haptic feedback. Rather than hearing sounds, users effectively learn a new sensory language that comprises different combinations of rhythmic pulses that reflect certain sounds, enabling them to experience the auditory world.
Early prototype versions of the device were attached to volunteers’ hands or clothes, but wearers reportedly found it difficult to accurately decipher the vibrations.
The idea was initially conceived as part of a university project by Tatsuya Honda, now a user interface designer at Fujitsu. According to Honda, wearers can gauge how far away a certain sound is based on the intensity of the vibrations and identify where the sound is coming from if they wear one device on the left side of their head and one on the right.