Ontenna, developed by Tatsuya Honda, is a gadget that enables anyone, including the hearing impaired, to enjoy sounds by feeling them, rather than hearing them.
Simply attach the small gadget, which looks just like a white hairpin, to your hair, to convert the sounds around it into 256 possible degrees of light and vibration, transmitting them to the wearer and people nearby. By enabling the hearing impaired to recognize things that can't be expressed in sign language or writing, such as rhythm and the intensity of sounds, it allows them to enjoy music and dance with anyone.
The inspiration behind the unique hairpin design was the feeling of one's hair blowing in the wind. If you were to convert the intensity of sounds into visual information and transmit that to the hearing impaired, it would be information overload, and become exhausting for the user. If you used vibration and attached it to your arm instead, it would get in the way of daily life. The designer worked with those with hearing impairments to create the most comfortable design for the user, and the Ontenna was what they came up with.
Honda made friends with a hearing impaired person at university and decided he wanted to help them experience sounds. He used his knowledge of information design, which he was studying at university, to begin developing the Ontenna while still a student. After countless attempts, he managed to create a successful prototype. Although Honda began working at a large appliance manufacturer after he finished postgraduate study, he could never give up on his dream of commercializing the product, so he left his company and joined Fujitsu. From this new base of operations, he would lead the project to develop the Ontenna into a consumer product.
In 2019, they began mass production, with Fujitsu selling the product not as a specialized device only for the hearing impaired, but as an affordable gadget for anyone to buy. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of this story is Honda's dedication. In a major Japanese company, it is extremely rare for an idea created by an individual, in an uncharted field, to be made into a product and put on the market in such a short span of time. Honda, who fully utilized the vast resources accessible to a large company, such as capital, manufacturing technology, and marketing ability, in his attempt to create a better society with technology, is sure to become a new role model for Japanese innovators.