Smart Glasses: Tech Giant Fujitsu's Breakthrough Device for Tourists and the Vision Impaired

Day-to-day life in a major capital city is never without its problems.

For example, often the most stressful parts of your day are the morning and evening commute. You are at the mercy of public transport. With packed bus and train carriages, poor signage and what seems like a constant series of delays, it sometimes requires your full attention just to make it home.

Spare a thought for the people who make the trek—or any other trip—with a vision or hearing impairment.

In Tokyo, tech giant Fujitsu has revealed several devices it is hoping can eliminate—or at least ease—the difficulties of life without full sight or sound:


Oton Glass
One button reads the text aloud in Japanese and the other in English. The sound is transmitted to an earpiece. Newsweek
Oton Glass
Oton Glass is a wearable smart pair of glasses that can read out written words and translate foreign text into English. It is being marketed towards the seeing-impaired who face difficulty reading. Newsweek

Inside the Fujitsu demonstration hall was a nifty pair of glasses fitted with a camera on the ridge above the nose. Oton Glass is capable of translating a foreign language (in this instance Japanese) into English, which is then read out to the wearer.

As appealing as that may be to travelers, the real target audience is anyone who struggles with reading. Once the glasses snap the photo, it takes between five and 20 seconds to translate. The information is then relayed over a speaker.

If you are at the supermarket and the price tag is difficult to read, simply take a photo and have the information read to you. Fujitsu said the glasses could be used on any text.

From Newsweek's trial, the translation was found to be more accurate than the Google Translate app on Android, but it did tend to lag for up to 20 seconds.

While still in the early stages of design, Fujitsu is aiming to sell the product for around ¥300,000 ($2,730 USD). The company is hopeful government subsidies can drop the price to around ¥25,000 for the consumer.

The glasses will be marketed to tourists, however the government subsidies would likely not be included.


Fujitsu believe Ontenna can be a fashion device that is more subtle for the hearing impaired. Newsweek
The Ontenna is clipped onto a person's hair or ear so that vibrations can be felt in place of sound for the hearing impaired. Newsweek

For the hearing impaired, Fujitsu is working on an accessory called Ontenna. It's a simple premise, the device vibrates more aggressively the louder a nearby sound is. For example, if you are at the movies and the scene includes an explosion, Ontenna will vibrate at maximum capacity.

The clip can be attached anywhere someone would want the vibration to be felt. In the hair and on the earlobe were the suggestions made at the exhibition.

Newsweek tried Ontenna on the earlobe and found that at max input, the device had enough vibration strength to almost rattle off.

Battery life varies depending on the day (and how loud/how much vibration there is). Fujitsu said it would last around six hours on the average day. A loud day could consume the battery in just two hours.

It is also fitted with a small light to ensure the clip-on device is receiving sounds accurately. Users can also wear multiple devices at once.

Disclosure: Newsweek is reporting from Tokyo as a guest of Fujitsu.