In Brief
Kinki Nippon Tourist and FueTrek have teamed up together to launch robot translators, wearable bands, and small tablets to help bridge the language barrier between foreigners and locals.
The Breakthrough

The two companies plan to launch the robots by early 2016, and all of the devices will be able to translate several languages into Japanese in order to aide the country’s tourism industry. Tech company FueTrek offers speech recognition software, which combines automatic speech recognition, machine translation, and text-to-speech technologies. The service hopes to benefit hotels, restaurants, and other small businesses that don’t have staff with the language skills required to cater to their foreign guests.

The Implications

Japan is experiencing a tourism boom over the past three years, but the language barrier and lack of bilingual speakers has continuously been problematic. Currently, there is a free service for businesses wherein they can hire interpreters for their guests, but this is deemed to be inconvenient. Whether businesses decide to adopt the progressive robot translators as an alternative is also uncertain, as many Japanese still deem is culturally appropriate for guests to learn their language.