As any true Star Trek fan will tell you, there’s a very good reason that every alien species in the galaxy speaks English — each Starfleet officer’s chest-worn communicator badge is also a universal translator.
That’s kind of what “iLi,” from Japanese startup Logbar, is going for.
The ability to have an intelligible conversation with someone who speaks a different language has long been a holy grail for tech’s biggest companies.
Logbar and its iLi don’t have that kind of pedigree. In fact, Logbar’s previous high-profile invention, its namesake ring motion controller, was called “the worst product ever made” by angry Kickstarter backers upset that the company raised $1 million for such a lacklustre invention.
The iLi is a pendant you wear around your neck that automatically translates between Japanese, Chinese, and English.
Unlike a smartphone app or similar, it’s supposed to be something you always have switched on while you’re travelling. It will even work while offline, a Logbar spokesperson promises.
For that reason, perhaps, Logbar has backed away from using its own name in a lot of iLi marketing. Indeed, the name “Logbar” doesn’t appear on the iLi website.
It looks a little bit like an old-school iPod shuffle, and has speakers that are supposed to be loud enough to be heard in a normal conversation.
In a short, prepared demo though, the iLi seemed to work ok — though not speaking Japanese myself, it’s hard to gauge its accuracy or nuance.
Still! Whether or not the iLi is a device that delivers, it’s still pretty darn cool that we’re at a point in technology where a portable universal translator is just around the bend.
It’s just another sign that our science-fictional future is getting closer every day.