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Japan: Automatic Translation Glasses for Olympic Visitors

By: RTV/CBS
By: RTV/CBS

Japan's biggest mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo hopes to make life easier for tourists with glasses that automatically translate foreign languages. (Courtesy: RTV/CBS)

Japan's biggest mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo hopes to make life easier for tourists with glasses that automatically translate foreign languages. (Courtesy: RTV/CBS)

Japan's biggest mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo hopes to make life easier for tourists with glasses that automatically translate foreign languages.

The company unveiled its prototype "Intelligent Glasses" at Japan's Ceatec consumer electronics expo this week, and says it hopes to have the device ready for foreigners travelling to Tokyo during the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The device can translate Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese, DoCoMo says.

"We'd already developed this Augmented Reality app for smartphones which translated text where you pointed your camera, but it felt really unnatural. So instead of walking around the street pointing your phone at signs and things we thought it would feel more natural to make glasses which could mimic the way we see things in real life," NTT DoCoMo engineer Shinji Kimura told Reuters.

"When foreigners come to Japan for international events like the Olympics, we feel it would be really useful if they could look at menus and things in Japanese and be able to automatically read them in their own language. So that's our goal, and we're trying to get development finished in time for that."

Users attach a headset and images from an tiny eye-level camera are sent to NTT DoCoMo's cloud server. Writing is analysed in realtime by the company's translation software and alternate language versions displayed for users in a small viewfinder.

Kimura says the company hopes to capitalise on a rising awareness of wearable technology like Google's "Google Glass", but Kimura admits DoCoMo still has challenges ahead to win over an emerging market.

"To popularise the glasses more widely, the quality of design is of course going to be important - and it's true they're a little bit big at the moment. But we're hoping to make them more stylish in the future," he said.


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