The first wearable translator will be coming this summer

by on February 7, 2016 at 8:05 pm in Science, Travel, Web/Tech | Permalink

Language barriers while traveling the world may become a problem of the past with the advent of new technology. The latest craze in the tech world was recently unveiled at the 2016 Electronics Show: a wearable translator. The Japanese startup Logbar plans on releasing the portable translator called the “ili” this summer. The actual device looks like an Apple TV controller and is hung around your neck.

With the press of a button, the device is allegedly capable of simultaneous translation.

There is more here by David Grasso, including a video, from

1 So Much For Subtlety February 7, 2016 at 8:28 pm

Everyone knows it should go in your ear. Apart from that, this looks good. There is a definite market for it. I knew someone who worked for a start up in a non-English speaking country where you rang a premium number and got a translator. Not sure how it did, but I was told it was always interesting to work there.

It occurs to me that British SF actually tries to explain why people can understand each other. At least The Hitchhiker’s Guide and Dr Who do. American, not so much. Did Star Trek? I can never remember any of them trying to explain why everyone could understand each other pretty much all of the time. How does a penniless scavenger end up speaking Droid among other languages? Is this due to America being, more or less, dialect-less whereas in Britain if you move 100 miles in any direction you may need a translator?

2 MC February 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

Starfleet Command is based in San Francisco and just like Americans, EVERYONE is expected to speak English. When certain aliens have the audacity to refuse to speak English, they use a universal translator (until Kirk blows them up). By the time of TNG, universal translators are built into comm badges.

3 Justin Kelly February 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm

There’s not a bit of hardware in that device that isn’t already on someones phone. All they need is an app instead of forcing people to shell out for a duplicate processor, mic, speakers, etc… In fact, I bet they could get better processing and translation by just sending the text to a central server, the way google and apple currently do text to speech.

4 Slocum February 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm

Combine the inaccuracies in speech recognition with errors in machine translation and the comic possibilities are vast. It’s just possible it will work well enough to be a useful though limited tool, but I kind of doubt .t

5 Justin Kelly February 7, 2016 at 9:35 pm

실례하지만 회의를 어디에요?
Excuse me but where are the of sliced raw fish?

6 Ray Lopez February 7, 2016 at 11:43 pm

You wish to find sushi? Understood.

7 Slocum February 8, 2016 at 8:07 am

Possibly. Or maybe you want to go to a fish market? And keep in mind that the translation is only half of the process — the other half is speech recognition, which is likewise faulty. And it will be especially challenging in this kind of real-world situation where the device is trying to decipher the words of both speakers and likely in the midst of a background of traffic noise, other people’s conversations, etc, etc.

8 Justin Kelly February 8, 2016 at 11:41 am

It’s actually asking where the meeting is being held. “회” has multiple homonyms, and auto translators struggle with context. I notice Arabic auto translators seem to inject “Wildebeest” into a lot of documents.

9 Anonymous February 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

>Don’t get too excited, because the arrival of wearable translators doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention in your foreign language class, or give up attempting to chat with your non-English speaking grandma. While these types of devices will help travelers with basic communication in places where insurmountable language barriers would have otherwise existed, they will never come to replace real human conversation.

>Just like the flippant and flirty British traveler from the video, I went to Japan and found myself facing enormous language barriers. While the wearable translator would have been very helpful in several situations, I probably would have never come back knowing dozens of words in Japanese. It was a source of pride to be able to piece together a basic sentence in a non-European language for the first time.

This reads like an oddly compressed version of the jealous “back in my day”/”no one should have it easier than I did”.

10 Axa February 8, 2016 at 7:31 am

I solve my differential equations with pencil and paper not like those stupid kids that use numerical approaches!!!

11 anon February 7, 2016 at 10:21 pm

A device that enables one to sexually assault women all around the world. There is no great stagnation!

12 Ray Lopez February 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm

Yes, since assault does not require touching, only reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, so you can verbally assault somebody.

13 So Much For Subtlety February 8, 2016 at 12:49 am

People really hate geeks. The Left in particular. Western women really hate geeks and East Asian women. Well, not so much if they stay where they are. A lot more if they marry people like Mark Zuckerberg.

So some geeks invent a device that might actually lead to a few geeks finding a little martial happiness. The Left goes nuts.

Who could have guessed?

14 Alain February 8, 2016 at 3:18 am


15 Moreno Klaus February 8, 2016 at 4:13 am

You are over-analyzing this. Since when does this device has to do with left or right??? Some people have such a narrow view….

16 So Much For Subtlety February 8, 2016 at 4:33 am

Anyone who conflates (admittedly mildly crass) chatting to girls with sexual assault is bound to be on the Left. Unless the person doing it is African American I suppose. By their insane obsessions ye shall know them.

17 anon February 8, 2016 at 11:20 am

The guy in the video literally chases a Japanese woman through the park. His behavior was absolutely deplorable. Imagine a black man doing that to a white woman in the United States; he’d be immediately arrested.

18 Dzhaughn February 8, 2016 at 1:18 am

Now then, he is merely annoying and rude. Why should language be a barrier?

Now where’s E. Harding?

19 Dulimbai February 8, 2016 at 12:59 am

Google Translate hasn’t improved a bit in 5 years. Nobody else has surpassed it. All these new gadgets are trying to use some of the hype until people notice that automatic translation still sucks and hasn’t improved in years.

Great stagnation indeed.

20 Axa February 8, 2016 at 5:18 am

It does not need to be perfect, just better or cheaper than human translators. Also, some people don’t want to translate poems or write a carta magna in the other language, just communicate enough to sell them goods.

In any case, the most important thing when talking with someone in their second or third language is the attitude to understand the other even if they make huge mistakes. The objective is communication, not a knowledge competition.

21 Dulimbai February 8, 2016 at 6:57 am

It’s emphatically not better than human translators. Everybody uses Google Translate to sell goods. Ever bought anything on Alibaba? Having it on your neck isn’t an improvement compared to a smartphone you’re already used to operating.

22 Axa February 8, 2016 at 8:02 am

Sometimes you have to sell ideas & goods to people face to face.

Anyway, the real world test is if I see tourists next year with a thing like this hanging from their necks……..or worst, street vendors in touristic places with this technology.

23 Jim February 8, 2016 at 5:37 pm

“It does not need to be perfect, just better or cheaper than human translators.”

Famous last words! You can get into some seriously funny trouble that way.

24 dearieme February 8, 2016 at 5:59 am

I presume it translates into American. Will onward translation into English be available?

25 Slocum February 8, 2016 at 8:35 am

Hey, don’t look at us — you’re the ones who forgot how to pronounce the letter ‘r’ (well most of you anyway — I always appreciate it when the BBC has Scots and Irish reporters who can still manage it).

26 yo February 8, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I’ve found even “professional” (read: expensive) translation services with humans will often suck badly as soon as they do something outside their areas of experience (e.g. sales and purchasing agreements/contracts in transnational M&A). So this might replace the guy who gives you directions in a foreign country (I doubt it), but probably not reduce the demand for good human translators yet, while it might make their job easier (get a first draft and tweak from there)

27 Nathan W February 10, 2016 at 11:42 pm

A good translator will rarely take on a project outside their area of specialty unless it’s a pretty general sort of document.

28 Andreas Moser February 9, 2016 at 8:34 am

It won’t be a translator. It will be a dictionary that will put one word after the other, making less sense the longer the sentence is and the less similar the two languages are.

Add the well-known problems of voice recognition to that, and it will just be awkward and annoying.

29 Translation for Attorneys February 24, 2016 at 1:33 am

Interesting discussion. Check out this legal translation blog post to understand some of the risks associated with the free translation tools:

Lawyers Beware: Don’t Let Client Confidentiality Get Lost in Translation

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