A Japanese railway company has begun testing an automated translation display that would help non-Japanese speaking commuters navigate Tokyo’s railway system.
What it does: Developed by printing company Toppan, the VoiceBiz UCDisplay is a 40-centimeter-high and 70-centimeter-wide semi-transparent window that translates communication between commuters and station staff in real time. It facilitates face-to-face interaction and currently translates between Japanese and 11 other languages.
Where it’s located: Seibu Railway, one of Japan’s major railroad companies, installed a VoiceBiz at its Seibu-Shinjuku station on July 10 for a three-month trial period. If all goes well, a full rollout will begin this fall, according to the Japan Times.
What commuters are saying: So far, the display at the Seibu-Shinjuku station — through which 135,000 commuters pass each day — has impressed testers. Kevin Khani, a 30-year-old German employee with Alibaba, said the translations were “spot on.”
“It might sound a bit weird, but you feel safe immediately because you know there’s a human on the other side. So you take your time to explain what you need and you will know that they will understand what you need,” Khani told Reuters.
“Google Translate isn’t always available because you don’t always have Wi-Fi everywhere you go, so places like this, it’s also much faster than pulling up your phone, typing everything out, showing it and (there being) misunderstandings,” said Kevin Cometto, an Italian student visiting Japan, as per Euronews. “Having it like this, clear on the screen, it’s really nice.”