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I see what you're saying - NEC's ‘Tele Scouter’ retinal-display translation glasses

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October 29, 2009

The Tele Scouter prototype wearable retinal display

The Tele Scouter prototype wearable retinal display

The days of a Universal Translator like the one that made communication between alien species a non-issue in Star Trek might be some way off yet. But a new device from NEC is definitely a step in the right direction for those of us on planet Earth looking for a way to communicate with other language speakers that doesn’t involve a human translator or a well-thumbed phrase book. The prototype device called a “Tele Scouter” is a glasses type display that translates the foreign language being spoken by a partner and projects the translation onto a tiny retinal display.

The device mounted on an eyeglass frame consists of the retinal display, front-mounted camera and microphone, but doesn’t perform the translation itself. Rather the microphone picks up the conversation and transmits it to a portable computer worn on the user’s waist. This computer in turn transmits the information to a remote server, which is responsible for carrying out the heavy processing of converting the speech to text, translating it and sending it back to the wearable parts of the system to be displayed on the retinal display.

This configuration allows for a device that is small and lightweight enough to be worn comfortably, without chewing through battery power. And since the retinal display projects the text into the user’s peripheral vision they are able to maintain eye contact with the person they are talking to. Also, because the wearer doesn’t have to focus their eye on the displayed text, the device can be worn for extended periods without eye strain.

At present the device’s translation abilities aren’t sufficient for real world applications, so NEC plans to initially market the device as a wearable hands-free data display that could be used to show engineers and on- and off-site technicians user guides and manuals while installing or repairing hardware. The system would also allows instructions from a single expert to be delivered to multiple personnel wearing the devices, while recording the repairs is captured by the front-mounted camera.

NEC is aiming to begin shipping the Tele Scouter system in 2010, with a system to suit the needs of 30 users estimated to cost around 750 million yen (approx. US$8.2 million at time of publication). Even at that price NEC is hoping to have sold 1,000 systems in three years.

Via Pink Tentacle, Slash Gear.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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2 Comments

Hi, As CTO of Lingo24, Scotland's largest translation company, I herald the day that we will have one so that we can talk intelligently to Weegies (if you don't know and have never been to Glasgow, the don't ask). Seriously though, we are some way of this being a practical option (maybe 20 years). The main obstacles currently are processing power, memory and power consumption.

AZ

Andrzej Zydron
31st October, 2009 @ 01:07 pm PDT

As the fovea still has to see the text, the text can't be placed peripherally but has to be placed on the eyes of the one you're talking to in order to maintain eye-contact. If it appears to be placed on the opponents chest, you still have too look down to see the text and then an ordinary microdisplay for example 10x15mm with lens placed somewhat under the line of sight will do the job, with much better resolution, colours, about the same amount of hardware hanging and at a cost that doesn't imply a buyer with the possibility of braindamage.

Andrej Rados

Andrej Radoš
4th February, 2010 @ 10:09 am PST
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