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The Future of Translation: Intelligent Glass

Published onOct 09, 2013
The Future of Translation: Intelligent Glass

At Japan’s Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC), a consumer technology trade show with over 580 companies involved, one product has become the talk of the town: Intelligent Glass. Intelligent Glass, which uses similar technology to that of Google Glass, has “normal” functions, such as checking the time or searching the Internet. Intelligent Glass, however, is gaining most of its attention because of its new, high-tech features. One of the most popular functions is the translation feature, which enables the wearer of the Intelligent Glass to see nearly instant translation of written texts; it took the prototype a little over five seconds to complete a translation. NTT Docomo, the creator of Intelligent Glass, believes the translation feature will be extremely helpful to tourists, who are not familiar with the Japanese language. It will enable tourists to see signs, directions, and even menus written in Japanese characters, to be projected on the Glasses’ screen in the wearer’s native language. The display can already translate Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean languages.

Big companies, including Google and Microsoft, have both been rumored to be developing software that can not only translate between languages, but can do so in a way similar to a human, taking into account an entire sentence or phrase rather than translating each word individually.

Intelligent Glass also comes with a facial recognition feature, which is aimed at helping those who may have trouble remembering names and faces. When the wearer of the Intelligent Glass is facing someone, in addition to the person’s name, personal details may also be visible including their job history, job title, and email. The Intelligent Glass uses smartphone remote servers and directories to obtain the personal data. This feature also comes with a confirmation function that aims to protect privacy.

The Intelligent Glasses also enable the wearer to take photos, record videos, read messages, and check their e-mail.

NTT Docomo also presented a ring, a device that accompanies the Intelligent Glass, which is typically worn on the wearer’s index finger. The ring turns any flat surface into a “virtual tablet computer,” similar to an iPad. NTT Docomo explains that one simply wears the ring, and “tap[s] away as apps are beamed onto the surface before you.” Using the ring, a person can also “manipulate a virtual image in their field of vision . . . that relays hand movements on the blank surface back to the glasses.” Although using this ring may look a bit odd to outsiders, it keeps whatever the ring-wearer is doing or looking at a secret. NTT Docomo said that a consumer wearing both the ring and the Glasses may no longer have the need to carry around a laptop or tablet.

As different versions of “smart glasses” and other “smart” technology are being introduced to the public and attracting interest, consumer technology consultants focus on the issues of the size, weight, and battery life of the glasses. Consultants also advise that it is important to take into account fashion and social acceptability.

While Intelligent Glass may be far from commercial introduction, an NTT Docomo spokesperson said that they hope to have them reach consumers by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in the hopes that the translation feature will be “particularly handy” at restaurants for all of the in-coming tourists.

* Samantha Berner is a second year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from the University of Florida.

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