When you decide to go to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you’re pretty much signing up to have some awkward conversations. Language barriers are part of traveling, but they can prove frustrating and inconvenient, especially when it comes to asking for directions, ordering from a menu, or going on a Tinder date. A Japanese start-up is trying to eliminate language barriers by introducing a face mask that automatically translates conversations.
The crowdfunded “c-mask” project was created by Donut Robotics, and it’s one of the most creative face mask innovations we’ve seen. The c-mask is an internet-connected mouth covering that goes over your standard face mask, and is capable of transcribing speech into texts, making calls, amplifying the wearer’s voice, and translating conversations into eight different languages (from Japanese to English, Chinese, French, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Spanish, and Vietnamese) by sending the translated text to your device. All you have to do is connect it via Bluetooth to a smartphone or tablet app.
Initially, Donut Robotics created robots that would act as guides and translators for Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, but the current state of the travel industry put that project on hold. To keep the company and the idea alive, it used the technology of the robot and adapted it to the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of a mask.
Taisuke Ono, Donut Robotics’ CEO, told Reuters, “We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society.”
The product is being developed further for the Chinese, European, and American markets. Each mask costs around $40.