High-Tech Face Mask Translates What You Say Into 8 Languages
Wow! This is so cool!
Face masks have become a regular part of many people’s routines. And, while masks offer protection against the spread of coronavirus, inventors are looking to make them capable of performing other practical tasks, too. In fact, one Japanese company has invented a way for its mask to act as a real-time language translator.
Donut Robotics developed the C-FACE Smart Mask as a way to help people live with the day-to-day reality in a COVID-19 society.
“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,” Donut Robotics chief executive Taisuke Ono told Insider.
The technology Ono described was originally created as part of a student project to interpret speech by mapping a person’s face muscles as they talk. Donut Robotics, looking for a way to survive the pandemic, then applied that technology to work within a face mask and had its first prototype built in one month.
The plastic C-FACE Smart Mask actually fits over a standard face mask and connects with the wearer’s smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. Once connected, the robotic technology can transcribe the spoken word into text messages, as well as make calls and boost the volume of the wearer’s voice.
The C-FACE Smart Mask translates conversations from Japanese to Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Korean, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese. Its creators say that it uses sounds and characters for its translation functions, but hope future versions will leverage virtual reality and augmented reality imaging technology.
You can see the face mask in action in Donut Robotics’ YouTube video, though it is in Japanese:
Ono funded the development of the C-FACE Smart Mask by raising the equivalent of $260,000 on Fundinno, a Japanese crowdsourcing website.
“We reached our initial target of 7 million yen within three minutes and stopped after 37 minutes when we had reached 28 million yen,” Ono told Reuters.
The new high-tech face masks, which cost about $40 each, will start shipping out in September to 5,000 buyers in Japan. However, Donut Robotics hopes to expand to China, Europe and the United States.