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Fujitsu Develops Wearable Hands-Free Speech Translation Device

You may think that a universal translator is years, maybe even decades away, but Fujitsu is about to start trialling one at hospitals across Japan.

Last year, Fujitsu teamed up with the University of Tokyo Hospital and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) to trial speech translation tablets. They were capable of detecting and recognizing speech and the specific language being spoken (Japanese, Chinese, and English). The translation would then be carried out into another supported language automatically.

With that trial being a success, Fujitsu took the concept further and reduced the translation device down to a size that was wearable. This new device is small enough to clip on to a shirt like an ID badge, yet is still capable of detecting multiple voices and automatically carrying out a translation of what is being said thanks to the inclusion of miniature directional microphones.


Fujitsu now plans to carry out trials of the wearable at hospitals across Japan where it is becoming increasingly common to hit a language barrier between patients and staff. The translator that will be tested has a speech detection accuracy of 95 percent when "natural distance face-to-face conversation" is undertaken. That covers most interactions between medical professionals and patients in a hospital setting.

If the trial proves successful, Fujitsu plans to expand its use to the fields of tourism and public services. A commercial launch in 2018 is planned, and if it's as good as it sounds, it won't take long for Fujitsu's wearable speech translator to be in demand worldwide.

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