Electronics giant NEC has reportedly developed a wearable optical device that interprets foreign languages and projects a real-time translation directly onto the retina, enabling the wearer to communicate with other language speakers without an interpreter.
The prototype device — called “Tele Scouter” — consists of a tiny retinal display and microphone mounted on an eyeglass frame. The microphone picks up the conversation and transmits it to a small computer worn on the waist, which converts the speech to text and translates it into the user’s native language.
The retinal display projects the text directly into the user’s peripheral vision, allowing them to maintain eye contact with their conversation partner while reading the translation. According to the developers, the Tele Scouter can be used for hours on end without eye strain, because the wearer does not have to focus their eye on the displayed text.
Although NEC plans to put a version of the Tele Scouter on the market in 2010, the company admits the device’s translation capabilities are insufficient for real-world applications. So for now, the initial plan is to market the device as a wearable data display for employees in factories and shops.
According to the company, the device can provide instant hands-free access to data such as diagrams and operating instructions, allowing workers to perform tasks more efficiently and accurately. Other possible future applications include car navigation systems and video games.