Simultaneous translation is made possible by an advanced transparent screen. Testing of the device will begin at Tokyo Station this autumn
Japan has long been renowned for its technological innovations, which are setting the stage for change for the whole world. Now we can see how a device called Voice Biz UCDisplay works, which offers direct live translation between Japanese and 11 other languages
The tool was developed by Toppan engineers. The item looks like a screen that also acts as a partition wall. When two people stand between the screen and start talking, subtitles appear on the screen to translate the speaker’s statements. The answers appear on the screen in the form of balloons, familiar from the communicators on our phones
Importantly, the on-screen captioning gives the user the feeling of having a casual conversation – unlike using on-screen translation on a phone. You are free to look the other person in the eye and interpret their facial expressions
In the autumn, three such screens will arrive at Tokyo’s Seibu-Shinjuku station for a three-month test run. The screens will enable tourists to better communicate with the station staff and buy tickets more easily. If the tests are successful, Seibu Railway will introduce such a solution at other stations
For the time being, Voice Biz UCDisplay is successfully translating Japanese into English, Spanish, French, Chinese and Korean. To speed up the translation process, the computer translates Japanese directly into each of the languages mentioned. The translation is done bypassing the English language. That is, a sentence spoken in Japanese is automatically translated into Spanish or French. However, there are as many as 11 languages supported in the database
Toppman initially provided a translation application called VoiceBiz. But we realised that by implementing our translation engine on a transparent display, we could make it a universal project that could help communicate with foreigners as well as people with hearing or speech disabilities, Tomoaki Nosaka, head of Toppman’s social innovation centre, told The Japan Times
If the interviewee has trouble saying a sentence, he or she can write down the question using the keyboard. Simultaneous translations are available at Seibu-Shinjuku station in Tokyo, right next to the express ticket offices
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