Four-Leaf Ltd. conducts research and development, design and manufacture of microphones
and has been involved in the microphone development for Comuoon since 2013.
We heard a number of anecdotes, including episodes from the development period,
from Mr. Sanpei, the company's president, whose company is in charge of the entrance for sound,
which is part of the communication support system.
Fascinated by Comuoon
I met Mr. Nakaishi for the first time three years ago, on May 14, 2013. At that time, he had just initiated full-scale development of Comuoon and our relationship began when he contacted our company to ask: "Can you help us with the microphone?" He told me what kind of product he was trying to produce while I was looking at the specifications for Comuoon on a computer screen, and I found myself totally fascinated by the form of the completely new communication support that Mr. Nakaishi was thinking about. I remember making a snap decision, saying, "This would be a great contribution to society," "Our company's image will be enhanced." This is just my theory but, looking back over the years, I've met remarkable people with whom I have developed lifelong relationships at a rate of one person in every 10 years. I also had that feeling on the day that I met Mr. Nakaishi. It was his 'aura,' I suppose. On first impression, I instinctively felt that this must be the one person in 10 years. Immediately after the meeting, I sent him a sample microphone and development substantially started from that point.
Microphone without Sound Degradation of Sound Required
Since our company conducts research and development, design and manufacture of microphones, we have previously been engaged in the development of a product that improves hearing, in terms of being involved with sound collection. However, this product concept was structured based on an idea of people with hearing difficulties accommodating themselves to those with good hearing. In this regard, Comuoon was based on a totally reversed concept. That was the amazing thing about Comuoon and, naturally, something different was also required of the microphone. What Mr. Nakaishi was talking about at the time was "a microphone without sound degradation." A tie-pin microphone was being used for the Comuoon trial machine and he could not prevent its sound degrading. However, a very challenging aspect of microphones is that, if you increase the sound collection sensitivity in order to eliminate sound degradation, another problem called 'feedback' will occur. A microphone that would not get feedback while efficiently picking up the sound and not degrading it was required. Fortunately, the clue for solving this difficult problem resided in another product. At that time, we had received a request for development of the intercom for a large medical X-ray machine. Because a microphone that did not pick up the machine's motor and fan noises, was needed, a gun microphone, which is used for recording the sounds of streams and birds singing, had been adopted for the machine after some trial-and-error. The performance of this gun microphone, which picks up only the natural voice clearly, sufficiently met the challenges of Comuoon. The type of microphone had been decided. The next challenge was its size and budget. It was not realistic to use a regular gun microphone for a table-top Comuoon because it was too large and the price was too high. Therefore, we worked on downsizing the microphone. Mr. Nakaishi visited our Yamagata plant on a number of occasions for discussions with our engineers and, gradually, a microphone that would be appropriate for Comuoon took shape. That is how the shotgun microphone for the first Comuoon was born.
Proud to Play a Role in Technological Breakthrough
Our company's factories and development sites are not large-scale with many large machines lined up inside. Rather, they give the impression of a workplace of craftsmen, where products are manufactured by human hands, so to speak. However, I think that work related to sound is humanistic, which is actually focus-driven. Engineers do not manufacture products in a vacuum. As long as they are making products on Planet Earth, they are subject to various influences. Our engineers understand that well. The manufacturing method for the same product can differ between the rainy season and the dry season. Products that have been made carefully and precisely by such people support the easy-to-hear, clear sound of Comuoon. Because the product has features such as clear sounds that are easy to hear for people with hearing difficulties, we tend to look toward the sound output of Comuoon but, because this product is called a 'communication support system,' it is a system which moves a speaker and a listener closer toward each other. In that way, the entrance of sound, the microphone, plays just as important a role as the output of sound. I am very pleased and proud that our engineers' technological prowess is contributing to that result.
Understanding the Meaning of Our Work
It was in the fall of 2015, shortly after Comuoon made its first appearance. Mr. Nakaishi visited our Kaminoyama plant in Yamagata and gave a seminar on hearing for all members of the factory workforce. The seminar was absolutely wonderful, and I think that our staff members were able to once again realize the meaning of the jobs that they had been working on. I feel that it is a significant thing to know how the products you manufacture are being used and how they bring pleasure to the people who use them. Also, I recently had a very delightful experience myself. While I was very happy just seeing Comuoon featured daily on television, and in magazines and newspapers, the other day, our banking client approached to me and asked: "This product called Comuoon is a product that your company is involved with, isn't it?" As a matter of fact, the bank had decided to introduce Comuoon in all of its branches and the person in charge who had learned about it spoke to me. I am deeply touched to realize that the product is being popularized in my area of interest.
Contributing Ease of Hearing to the World
Since the first shotgun model, the range of types of microphones used for Comuoon has been expanding to provide different types according to specific applications, including the current pin microphone, headset microphone, and half-shotgun microphone. Going forward, we hope to make products that are even easier to use, such as a microphone that can be freely moved by the user. We value communication environments in which the users can relax and talk. I think that many natural conversations can be generated in such safe atmospheres. In order to achieve that, I feel that we have a mission to evolve the product into even better products. In addition, the Act on the Elimination of Disability Discrimination came into effect last April. This is a law designed to require environmental changes to facilitate living for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, Japan is still a long way from being fully developed in this respect. However, little by little, the world is beginning to change and this law is an example of that trend. I think that this is undoubtedly one factor that can help improve life for people with hearing difficulties. I am convinced that Comuoon is an effective product as a form of specific support in times like these. Changing from face-to-face to wireless, Comuoon will continue to evolve. As a company that plays a part in its development, I hope that we can contribute to the next Comuoon and help to support improved hearing by collaborating with USD and Mr. Nakaishi even more closely.
Four-Leaf Ltd., President & CEOSusumu Sanpei
Born in Fukushima Prefecture. Established Four-Leaf in 2000 with the aim of manufacturing microphones with "made in Japan" qualities.
Provides high-quality microphones that are used not only in Japan but also in major international settings.