Traveling abroad has it’s virtues, but failing to understand signs, menus and other unfamiliar text can bring the gears of the voyage to a grinding halt. While there’s no substitute for taking time to learn a new language, Japan’s predominant mobile phone company can help you cut a few corners.

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NTT Docomo’s Intelligent Glasses are a pair of spectacles that can translate foreign text while reading. Recently demoed at Japan’s CEATEC consumer electronics show, the glasses project an image of the wearer’s native language over unfamiliar characters.

Though still a prototype, the Intelligent Glasses translate Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English nearly in real time — processing time for translating clocked in at just over five seconds. Think of the glasses as a wearable version of the Word Lens app.

The glasses also allow wearers to manipulate virtual images in their field of vision. By wearing a ring that tracks hand movements, users can interact with the projected images via  so-called touch tags that are only viewable to them. This feature essentially turns any surface into a touch screen.

As well, the specs reportedly include facial recognition, where a person’s name, job title and other personal details could be gleaned from a smartphone’s remote server, as long as that person was within viewing range.

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Developers want to improve the size, weight and battery life of the glasses and are shooting toward a launch date in 2020, the year the Summer Olympic Games come to Tokyo.

No word whether designers are waiting for a call from the Google Glass brain trust, but I’d say it’s very likely they are.


credit: NTT Docomo