Translation technology | 12.11.2009

The Eyes Have it

Communication is big business and without it, the list of potential pitfalls is endless. Hence the invention of new ‘translating’ glasses by NEC, the Japanese electronics firm.

The new glasses comprise lens-free frames, a headset, a computer processor and a small projector. The operator wears a small computer processor around the waist which relays information to the projector, which in turn displays text or diagrams onto the wearer’s retina. Currently, the target users are call centre or sales staff who could benefit from up-to-date client information, or engineers who could do away with cumbersome manuals. However, according to NEC, this invention also has potential as a real-time translating and interpreting aid via voice-recognition software.

The benefits have been mooted as real-time information being available in a compact format at the touch of a button; increased confidentiality without having to involve a third-party translator or interpreter, and easier and freer flowing communication when the conversation takes place.

Yet some concerns have been expressed about reliability and initial costs for the device, which apparently comes as a pack of 30 headphones, sans software. According to the BBC, one such pack would cost around £50,000. Hefty manuals and piles of paperwork may be a thing of the past with the Tele Scouter, but will this be enough to justify a seemingly hefty outlay in times of economic hardship.

The buzz generated in the interpreting and translating world by NEC’s announcement has certainly been more than audible. Translators and interpreters are highly qualified individuals, adhering to and conversant with client confidentiality and codes of conduct – and many of them appear to be wary of the accuracy of such a device.

Nevertheless, it is never a bad thing when attention is drawn to the world of translating and interpreting and for such funds to be invested in technological developments is certainly a positive step for any profession. 2010 is the launch date for the Tele Scouter – we will keep our eyes peeled.

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