Here’s another item to stuff into your Brave New World file — a hand-held translation device that, according to Bloomberg News, is taking Japan by storm and is also now available in the US. (“Tourists are fueling a boom in personal translation devices”)
The $299 product can be worn around the neck, and is capable of translating phrases to and from 74 languages. With a tourist boom that brings 31 million visitors to Japan each year, shop owners looking for additional profit need a way to communicate with customers. The Pocketalk device allows store keepers to capture a spoken phrase from foreign customers, which it then translates into Japanese (or, for that matter, English or any of the other supported languages).
Does it work? Amazon.com reviews paint a mixed picture, with some users complaining that the device is too slow and cumbersome, while others describe it as hugely helpful. Machines aren’t ready to replace the subtle understanding and nuance that human interpreters bring to complex medical encounters. But if all you really want is a platter of sushi in Tokyo…?