Tourists to Japan are fueling a boom in personal translation devices
Japan Times -- Aug 08
Takehiko Fujita wouldn’t be able to do his job selling eye drops and pain relievers without his pocket translator.

Instead of an app, language dictionary or call-in translation service, the clerk at a Japanese drugstore uses Pocketalk, a ¥25,000 device made by Sourcenext Corp. that looks like an oval puck. The gadget translates phrases to and from 74 languages, helping Fujita communicate with customers from around the world.

Tourists are flooding into Japan, with 31 million people visiting the archipelago in 2018, triple the number six years earlier, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. Businesses are struggling with visitors looking to shop, eat and move around — a situation that will probably worsen during next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Seeking to tap into demand, electronics maker Fujitsu Ltd. and office supplier King Jim Co. are challenging Pocketalk’s 94 percent market share with their own products.

“I’m not worried anymore,” said Fujita, who works at a Takeya store in Tokyo’s Okachimachi area. He used to rely on Google Translate to talk to customers, but now he picks up the Pocketalk dangling from his neck to chat with people. “I can speak to people who… come from foreign countries and might not understand me.”

While smartphone apps remain a popular — and common — translation tool, Pocketalk has carved out its own niche. Dedicated for just one purpose, the gadget has a sensitive microphone, and accesses machine translation and voice-recognition software from Google, Baidu and others, improving accuracy. More than 500,000 Pocketalk units have been sold since it debuted in 2017.

News source: Japan Times
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