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Glasses that translate a Chinese menu into English

Posted: 10/28/2013 10:53 am

A Japanese telecoms firm unveiled augmented reality (AR) glasses last month that “automatically translate foreign menus into the wearer’s own language,” according to a report by The Telegraph.

Those of us living in China who own smartphones probably already rely on apps such as Google Translate and others to help us through our day. Whether you are out shopping or in a restaurant ordering food, translation apps are often a vital part of ensuring the smooth running of your day in a foreign country.

Clearly NTT Docomo, the firm behind the glasses, has seen a spot in the market for such a wearable device that would make it easier for foreigners living in non-English speaking countries.

Google has been generating a lot of global attention with its Project Glass, the search company’s first venture into the wearable and AR tech market that is expected to be ready for consumers in the next year or two.

The likes of Samsung and Microsoft have also leaked renders of their own designs. Clearly AR glasses are going to be big business, and a lot of companies want a piece of the cake (read: your money).

In a statement, NTT Docomo said: “Character recognition technology enables instant language translation for users travelling abroad and reading restaurant menus and other documents.”

Currently the closest foreigners living in places such as China and Japan can come to a similar concept is with photo-input methods, offered by smartphone apps such Google Translate, that are capable of recognising and translating characters in an image taken with a smartphone’s camera. But in reality the experience can be hit and miss.

For now, NTT Docomo’s translating spectacles are still a way off: slated to be ready in time for the Tokoyo Olympics in 2020.

What do you think of glasses that can translate your menu into English? My worry, certainly in China with its infamously obscure names for many dishes, is that any literal translation is almost as good as useless. But I’ll agree it’s a step in the right direction and certainly a forward thinking solution to a long-time problem.

Photo credit: The Telegraph
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