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Panasonic helps workers create their own head space with new crowdfunded device

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Maintaining concentration is key to getting your work done efficiently, but it can be hard to achieve sometimes.

Sitting in your chair at the office, other coworkers may be constantly walking around nearby. Someone behind your desk could be chatting with their colleagues.

That’s where an entrepreneurial team at tech giant Panasonic Corp. saw a business opportunity, and subsequently launched a crowdfunding campaign for its prototype wearable device designed to help users stay focused.

Simply put, the device, called Wear Space, is a pair of over-ear wireless headphones attached to a big piece of U-shaped fabric. The noise-canceling headphones reduce surrounding noise, while the fabric blocks out movement in the user’s peripheral vision, making the wearer feel like he or she is in their own personal space.

An increasing number of companies have started to extend use of hot-desking in their offices, with workers freely choosing space to work, while startups often use co-working offices.

More diverse working styles have become a trend. “On the other hand, everyone sometimes wants to be alone and concentrate,” said Kang Hwayoung, a member of the team that developed the device.

Thus, the 330-gram Wear Space’s ability to create a semi-personal space will come in handy, she said, adding that the concept is (literally) to “wear space.”

Covering your head with the fabric partition can also stop people from trying to make small talk.

“When someone is wearing the Wear Space, you can clearly see that the wearer wants to focus. We think this is quite important,” said Kang.

However, Kang said the firm has not conducted research to back its theory that the Wear Space improves concentration levels.

While the wearable partition itself is a slightly unusual gadget, the way Panasonic has come up with the design is also outside of the norm, according to the team. This is the first time that the 100-year-old company has used crowdfunding for its product development, saying it is seeking a new way of generating new business opportunities.

To speed up the development process, the device does not use the Panasonic brand name, as that would increase internal procedures, the team said.

Panasonic hopes to raise ¥15 million through the crowdfunding and send out about 500 units. Prices start from ¥28,000, and the units can only be shipped within Japan.

Kang said the team will look into reactions from the crowdfunding participants and see if the product should be mass produced later on.

The firm has displayed the prototype Wear Space at various events overseas, and even received design awards for it.