Augmented reality could soon make language barriers a thing of the past.
Japanese telecom company NTT Docomo is working on a Google Glass competitor that will read text written in foreign languages and automatically overlay translations.
The device, which was unveiled at the Ceatec electronics trade show in Tokyo today, is still in the prototype stage, but Docomo says it’ll be more than ready by 2020, when Tokyo is expected to host the Olympics. The device has already been used to translate Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English.
“Character recognition technology enables instant language translation for users travelling abroad and reading restaurant menus and other documents,” Docomo said in a statement.
The Docomo specs take a slightly different approach to translation from Google Glass, which has so far focused on translating spoken words, not written ones. But the Glass approach is often impractical: Translating via Glass right now means saying a word or phrase out loud and waiting until Glass gives you the translation. It’s far from automatic.
Google, however, isn’t skipping out on the character recognition approach to translation. Google Goggles, its image recognition app, has offered optical character recognition for a few years now, and Google recent ported the functionality to its Google Translate app.
So it’s just a matter of time before Google brings real-time text translation to Glass. Don’t get too comfortable, Docomo.