The company behind ‘the worst product ever made’ is back with a high-tech translator necklace

Logbar ili pendant necklace
The iLi translator pendant. Matt Weinberger/Business Insider

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.

Titans like Microsoft and Google have made this kind of real-time translation a major priority with apps like Skype Translate and Google Translate.

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.

The original Logbar ring, which raised over $1 million on Kickstarter but got panned by critics. YoUTube

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.

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