A train station in Tokyo on Wednesday started reproducing platform announcements and the sounds of train arrivals and departures onto a screen in the form of text and sign language to help the hearing impaired on their journeys.
In the trial project that began at JR Ueno Station and will run through Dec. 14, East Japan Railway Co. aims to provide the hearing impaired with a safer and more convenient travel experience.
In the service developed in conjunction with Fujitsu Ltd., station announcements and train sounds collected by microphones are converted into text and onomatopoeic descriptions in real-time using artificial intelligence.
They are then displayed on a screen positioned above a vending machine, with the roar of trains represented by cartoonish fonts and with different sizes to add to the detail provided, with the text changing to represent volume levels, for example. The screen will also show station staff signing commonly used announcements.
On Wednesday morning, the whooshing sound of an approaching Yamanote Line train was expressed with Japanese onomatopoeia. A sign language video was shown to inform passengers that the doors were closing ahead of the train's departure.
Called "Ekimatopeia," a portmanteau of the Japanese word for "station" and the English word "onomatopoeia," the service is based on ideas that came out of a workshop conducted at a school for deaf students last summer in Kawasaki, near Tokyo.
"We thought it would be helpful if we could understand what was going on around us through written words. It feels amazing that our idea became a reality. I want it to be displayed in more stations," said Sora Konno, 18, a student at the school.