In this day and age, it's fairly difficult to find a place where absolutely no one would speak English. Even in remotest villages, it is likely you'll come across someone who knows a word or two in this global language.
However, if you're a traveler who's passionate about learning the intricacies of foreign cultures, the language barrier is definitely an obstacle to be reckoned with.
Many have tackled the communication issue already, from tech giants like Google developing earbuds that translate 40 languages in real-time to various smartphone apps, and yet we still don't have a definite winner that would check all the boxes. The devices are usually bulky, complicated and in need of Wi-Fi connection, which is not always within reach when traversing the world.
Recognizing this issue as well as being inspired by his own experiences, Japanese entrepreneur Takuro Yoshida designed his own instant translator – ili – that is on its way of changing the way we travel for good.
What's so special about it?
We know you're probably jaded by internet platforms such as Kickstarter promising you great technological breakthroughs but then disappearing into the void, but bear with us because this might just be the real thing. In short, ili claims to be "world's fastest offline wearable translation device trusted by over 30,000 travelers." The most important keywords here are offline and wearable.
Indeed, ili is about the size of an Apple TV remote and can be worn around your neck. It's super lightweight, ergonomic and has a very minimalistic layout with only three control buttons.
However, it's the ability to function without Wi-Fi, 3G or any other internet connection that makes ili a top contender in the instant – less than 0.2 seconds is hella fast – translator category.
Made possible by ili's individual OS called "Stream," it "allows for voice recognition, translation, and audio output. "Stream" features a pre-loaded travel vocabulary of up to 50,000 words and phrases in English, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish that are constantly updated through the mobile app. According to its creators:
"By focusing on travel, ili doesn’t sacrifice its memory on unecessary vocabulary (such as business or medical). It has enough memory to translate everything you need during your next trip without the need to access an online translation library."
For now, ili is focused on one-way translation, meaning you're the one speaking into the device which then transmits the translated text for everyone around to hear. After experimenting with two-way translation, Yoshida learned it's inefficient and was less popular among travelers.
The device normally retails at $249 but now you can get it on sale for $199. The available output languages are English, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, but the developers are planning to add more soon. To learn more about ili, visit its website and check out the video below.