Robo-talk helps pocket translator

By Jo Twist
BBC News Online technology reporter

Papero has lent its translation ability to tourists
Small robots with friendly faces have helped out in the development of handheld translation gadgets to be tried out by travellers in Japan.

http://www.incx.nec.co.jp/robot/robotcenter_e.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3513623.stm

Small robots with friendly faces have helped out in the development of handheld translation gadgets to be tried out by travellers in Japan.
Visitors landing at Tokyo’s Narita Airport will be able to hire a device which can translate the local lingo.

The speech-to-speech technology was developed by NEC, tested in Papero robots and then put in PDAs.

Papero is the first all-hearing, all-seeing robot to be able to talk in conversational colloquialisms.

The PDA hire scheme is part of a wider project, e-Airport, to make Japan’s main international airport the most hi-tech in the world.

Lend me your brain?

As well as being able to understand and imitate human behaviour, Papero (Partner-Type Personal Robot), is the first robot to translate verbally between two languages in colloquial tongue.

It can cope, in other words, with slang and local chatter, and has a vocabulary of 50,000 Japanese and 25,000 English travel and tourism related words.

The e-Navi is meant to be a travelling companion for tourists
After Papero demonstrated its translation ability, the PDAs borrowed its brain and tongue. Users can talk into the device and it will talk back in almost-perfect Japanese in a second.

It has voice recognition, digital voice translation and a voice synthesiser to talk to users, explained Chris Shimizu, NEC’s corporate relations manager, and the quality of the voice spoken back to users is much more human than robotic.

The devices also serve as mobile phones, and have airport and local guides, as well as unlimited wireless net access.