As Japanese tourism grows, businesses struggle to bridge the language divide between international visitors and locals. Panasonic, however, may have a solution: a multilingual loudspeaker.
The Megahonyaku—an amalgamation of "megaphone" (megahon) and "translation" (hon'yaku)—automatically translates Japanese into English, Chinese, and Korean.
Simply speak into the microphone; the machine listens and analyzes sentence structure, and transcribes the words. Using the integrated touch screen, pressing the respective dialect button outputs your sentence in one of the three available languages.
Aimed at corporate customers including train stations and airports, the amplifier could prove very useful in crowded locations and tourist destinations where information is dispensed to groups who may all speak different languages.
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The Megahonyaku, The Japan Times reports, comes pre-installed with 300 common sentences in Japanese, including "The train has been delayed" and "Watch your step." Additional phrases will be available via Web-based updates.
Making your voice heard in a congested, noisy terminal isn't always an easy task—even with a portable PA system. But the Megahonyaku's speech recognition system is unaffected by background noise, the Times said, and is "almost certain" to recognize preset sentences if not spoken verbatim.
Panasonic did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.
The megaphone is expected for launch Dec. 20, on sale for less than ¥20,000 ($183) per month on a three-year contract, which includes future updates and maintenance.
Panasonic is also developing a number of other audio solutions, with an eye on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, which promises throngs of international travelers spilling into the capital city.