Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we really are living in the future. Star Trek communicators are basically dumbed down smartphones; we now have laser beams that sanitize skin for surgery, and… of course, we’ve got self-driving cars (not as cool as the flying kind, but way safer for sure). But even with all that, now and then, something comes along that just floors me.
Take this megaphone, for example. It’s basically a universal translator. You speak into the normal speaking end, tap some buttons, and it automagically translates what you said into English, Chinese, or Korean. And it does this in a matter of seconds. Not perfect, by any means, but it’s a huge step towards the future.
Panasonic developed the device dubbed “The Megahonyaku,” a portmanteau that plays on the Japanese words for “megaphone” and translation. It comes with 300 or so phrases that it can understand, and, if you’d prefer not to speak, you can select which command you’d like using a touchscreen. Some of the phrases include “Please form a single line,” and “the train has been delayed,” but users can add more themselves or download new ones.
Foreigners have been trekking to Japan either for vacation or business in record numbers recently. That’s made it more difficult for the relatively monolingual island nation to communicate effectively with visitors. The hope is that this will help Japanese workers speak to and advise tourists and professionals about important information. It’s also being considered for use during emergencies and can translate reasonably well regardless of background noise.
The Megahonyaku will cost about $200 a month via a subscription service with Panasonic – so not exactly affordable for most of us. But the company is targeting the device at businesses that staff high-traffic areas like airports and tourist areas. The device should go on sale later this year.