Sharp has developed a prototype personal translator that should make life easier for Japanese tourists when they travel abroad.
The prototype translator, which only works with English and Japanese, is roughly the same size as a small PDA (personal digital assistant) and sits comfortably in the hand. When a user speaks into the translator in either English or Japanese, the grey-scale LCD (liquid crystal display) will first display a transcription before offering a translation into the other language.
If the translation is done from Japanese into English, the user can press a button and the translator will pronounce the English phrase using its text-to-speech function. This function does not work with Japanese.
The translator, which was on display at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan, relies on voice recognition software from IBM and then applies translation software used in Sharp's pocket translators to convert this text into Japanese or English as required.
Currently, the device only supports Japanese and English, but it has a Micro SD memory card slot, which allows for Sharp to add support for additional languages, said Toshiyuki Matsumara, a company spokesman.
Sharp plans to commercialise the translator at the end of this year, Matsumara said. Pricing for the device, which will only be sold in Japan, has not yet been decided.