Tokyo airport is testing out an interesting new device that allows the user to talk to people in three different languages even if the user doesn’t speak those other languages. The device is a megaphone from Panasonic called the Megaphoneyaku. The last syllable in the product name, Yaku, means translation.
The device looks like a traditional megaphone with a phablet attached to the top. The ability for it to translate languages into something else is roughly equivalent to the ability of a smartphone to translate via an app. The user speaks into the megaphone in one of three languages- English, Chinese, and Korean. Anything spoken in one of the languages can be translated to the other two.
The device was born out of problems in 2014 when Tokyo airport was hit with floods. Airports staff found they were unable to communicate with foreign travelers who were stranded in the airport during the floods.
Being unable to communicate with foreign travelers left the airport staff a difficult task when distributing food and water and highlighted the need for a translation device. If the megaphone is as adept at translation as a smartphone app or webpage, that likely means some rather odd translations. At least travelers will be able to get the gist of what the person is trying to say to them.