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Sound-to-vibration devices give deaf students in northeast Japan a chance to dance together

Students wearing Ontenna devices on their arms dance to match vibrations converted from sounds, at Fukushima Prefectural School for the Deaf in the city of Koriyama, in northeastern Japan, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)
Ontenna (Mainichi/Tatsuya Michinaga)

KORIYAMA, Fukushima -- Children at a school for the deaf in northeastern Japan have been given the chance to enjoy rhythm and dancing together thanks to the donation of wearable devices that let users sense sound with their bodies.

    Japanese electronics giant Fujitsu Ltd. presented the devices, called "Ontenna," to Fukushima Prefectural School for the Deaf in the city of Koriyama, in a ceremony on Jan. 21. The microphone-equipped devices, which can be attached to students' hair or clothing, can convert sound volume and rhythm patterns into 256 levels of vibration and light strength. A controller allows the same sound and rhythm patterns to be sent to multiple devices simultaneously.

    In a trial lesson, 11 elementary school students wearing the devices on their arms enjoyed dancing and exercising to a rhythm sent by a teacher operating a controller. Misaki Enokido, 12, a sixth grader at the school, commented, "I can feel the vibration of the device. It was fun to move in time with everyone else."

    According to the school, it is difficult for deaf students to synchronize the timing of their movements to match music as they have to keep looking around at others to keep in time. In the trial lesson, students could dance without looking around.

    The school will also use the equipment, manufactured by Fujitsu Electronics Inc., in training sessions for students to speak as well as in P.E. classes.

    (Japanese original by Naoki Watanabe, Fukushima Bureau)

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