Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has conducted a demonstration experiment of its museum guidance service, which will enable people with visual impairments to enjoy works of art.

During the experiment, conducted at the Panasonic Shiodome Museum in Tokyo, Panasonic explored "the utility, the value this system will have, and what a fun experience in the museum may mean for the visually impaired."

With the system, called the Museum Guidance Service for the Visually Impaired, visitors who approach an artwork will have their smartphones receive a signal from the highly directional beacon installed above the artwork. Then the smartphone and relevant app will play back audio guidance for the artwork through the bone conduction headphones. Bone conduction headphones enable visitors to continue to hear what is going on around them, enjoy the ambience in the museum and make their way safely through the space as well, according to Panasonic.

The audio guidance to be played back by the dedicated app was created in collaboration with the voluntary group, Verbal Imaging Museum Tour with Visually Impaired People, and Art & Part, a company that develops audio guidance for museums. Information provided includes details such as the size, composition, colours and texture of the artworks, which will help visitors imagine what the artwork is like even though they may not be able to see it.

Wearables that touch lives

True to its promise to create a better life, Panasonic is setting its sights on wearable technology pieces that address health and wellness needs.

Panasonic's innovation team, called the Game Changer Catapult, has partnered with students from the New School's Parsons School of Design to create garments and services focusing on areas of sleep and social interaction. The projects will be debuted at SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas, in March.

"As embedded technology becomes more prevalent, Parsons is training designers to not only leverage this technology, but to use it for social good," said Parsons Design Lab director Anu Malhotra, who is overseeing the project.

The Game Changer Catapult is an initiative of Panasonic to accelerate efforts in developing new businesses that focus on home electronics and for training personnel who can lead the way in this field.