[CEATEC 2016] Hearing aids are a dime a dozen and they’re not exactly new tech either, but that doesn’t mean that it could still be improved upon, and nor does it mean that its design has been perfected. Granted there have been many improvements made to sensitivity, features, and size, but Fujitsu thinks that there might be a better way.
At CEATEC, the company showed off a device called the Ontenna. Shaped like a barrette , the purpose of the Ontenna, while looking like a Bluetooth earpiece, isn’t meant to be worn in barrette and is meant to be clipped onto your hair. The idea is that instead of sound going into your ear, it will be sent through your hair via vibrations instead. So in reality the wearer isn’t actually hearing anything, but more like they are sensing it.
Fujitsu describes the concept as how cats can feel the flow of the wind via their whiskers. The concept of using vibrations to transmit sound has been done before through bone conduction headphones, but through hair is an interesting approach. According to the Fujitsu rep, the company tried various approaches such as directly on the skin, but they found that it was simply too uncomfortable for prolonged periods.
They also tried it on clothes but presumably the clothing material kind of dulled the vibrations somewhat. Ultimately they landed on using hair which is apparently very sensitive, sensitive enough to allow the wearer to “sense” sound. It is an interesting idea but we were quick to realize that there was a limitation, and that is if you don’t have a head of hair, or if it is very short, using the Ontenna would be impossible.