Oto-Shigure, a high-tech umbrella that functions as a personal audio speaker system, gives music lovers a reason to dance in the rain. Developed by Keio University and IT company Toa Engineering, Oto-Shigure looks like an ordinary traditional Japanese umbrella made of bamboo and oiled paper, but the entire object emits sound when connected to an iPod or other portable audio device, thanks to a tiny built-in amplifier and four small vibrating motors mounted along the periphery, which effectively turn the canopy into a large speaker cone. The umbrella produces a highly localized three-dimensional sound space audible only to the people underneath, so it can be used in public without disturbing the peace.
After filing a patent application for Oto-Shigure last September, inventors Yusuke Kamiyama and Mai Tanaka worked with Toa Engineering to complete a prototype earlier this year. They are now showing it off to the public to gauge user interest. If the response is positive, they plan to begin selling the audio umbrella next year for under 10,000 yen ($100).