Deaf people miss out not just on spoken conversation but on a wide range of sound in their surroundings and the environment. Fujitsu Limited has a vision of a new technology to help deaf people sense and relate to sounds in the world and in their lives.

Ontenna, an ongoing open innovation project headed by the Fujitsu group, focuses on transmitting sound characteristics via hair to add audio content to deaf people’s lives. The device detects sound and converts it to levels of vibration and light that can be sensed through hair. The project’s roots go back to a meeting between a college freshman and a deaf person at a cultural festival in 2009. In 2013 the project began with research on a new type of user interface to perceive sounds, resulting in Ontenna.

The current Ontenna device is a wearable one wears like a hairpclip.  The device “turns sound pressure within the range of 30 decibels to 90 decibels into 256 levels of vibration and lumosity, transmitting the sound’s features to the wearer.” Currently, the Ontenna device recognizes sound intervals. Going forward the project hopes to enable Ontenna users to sense sound tone and timbre, in addition to timing intervals.

By making Ontenna programmable and opening the project to contributors from around the world, the Ontenna group invites involvement from any individuals or groups who wish to participate. You can contact Honda Tatsuya of the Ontenna Project at info@ontenna.jp.