United World Project


Japan – Smart glasses so no one is excluded

16 November 2020   |   , , Economy of Francesco
By Maria Gaglione – published in Avvenire on 21/06/2020

#EoF: the stories – Keisuke Shimakage is a young Japanese entrepreneur who founded Oton Glass in 2014 to help his father. The device helps blind and visually impaired or dyslexic people.

Doing research, doing business. Keisuke Shimakage is a young Japanese entrepreneur. In 2014 he founded a company “because in our society nobody should be left behind” says Keisuke. Oton Glass makes “intelligent” glasses for blind and visually impaired people, dyslexic people or people with significant pathologies that prevent a correct reading of the messages. These glasses make it possible to convert images of written text into sound through cloud computing.

They look like traditional glasses, but in fact they incorporate two cameras and an earpiece. The underlying technology is complex and sophisticated, as a result of collaboration with university research groups (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan) which has also led to scientific publications. “Thanks to these devices, the image of the text to be reproduced – explains Keisuke – is sent to a system, using Raspberry Pi, and once processed, it is transmitted to the person wearing the glasses through the headset. If necessary, the device can also provide the translation of the text into the desired language“. So, enterprise and research, technology and implementation, to overcome difficulties and barriers. At the origin of this business idea there is a personal story for Keisuke.

“I started working on the design of Oton Glass so that my father could recover his visual deficit. In 2012 after surgery he developed a form of dyslexia. The first thing I did during that period was to “interview” my father to understand the problems he had in his daily life and observe his behaviour. During the conception phase, I prepared sketches and designed prototypes on the computer. I then formed a team of engineers and designers who made a first working prototype. My father did the testing and on the basis of his indications we made other modifications to make more advanced prototypes, submitted to five other dyslexic people who gave us further suggestions”.

Keisuke has preserved this approach in his new company. “It was fundamental for us to create a community of development engineers, programmers, researchers together with visually impaired people who are our end users. Their presence, collaboration and feedback are invaluable. And it is a joy to know that this tool helps them to have more self-confidence, to leave home and to interact with others more easily, even in the work environment. Some cities, such as Toyooka, Sibuya, Fuchu, Mitsuke, have recognised Oton Glass as a support device for people with disabilities“.

Keisuke still has many projects to improve his smart eyewear and looks to the future with hope to build a new economy capable of welcoming human frailty and giving concrete answers. Also doing research in the field of new technologies means “taking care”. Designing smart glasses can also be a tool for social inclusion.