- Designed by the company that made the nine-language earpiece translator.
- Smartwatch can host multilingual chats with groups of 1000 people.
- Available to order tomorrow at starting price of $US699.
The Australian startup which launched an earpiece that can instantly translate nine languages now has a smartwatch and a messaging service.
In less than a year since he launched the TranslateOne2One device at a United Nations event in Switzerland, former plumber Danny May has become an unlikely, but extremely busy, advocate for IBM’s AI technology, Watson.
Watson takes 30-second blocks of conversation in English, Japanese, French, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Arabic and returns it to the One2One earpiece coherently in any of those languages.
May began working on the technology five years ago when he struggled to communicate effectively while on a business trip to China.
His startup, Lingmo International, released the $279 earpiece in October last year, even beating Google’s Pixel Bud translation service to the market, with the major advantage over its competitors of using a SIM card to operate independently of a phone.
But by December, feedback proved to May that an earpiece isn’t a good fit for everybody. So here’s another way to chat with someone in nine different languages:
It’s called the Time2Translate and you can buy it tomorrow, with delivery expected in April, anywhere in the world.
“People loved the One2One tech and loved what it was doing, but some people found it hard to use on the ears,” May says. “The tech was never in question, it was always just a matter of how we could put it into a better user experience.”
The smartwatch also knocks out some extra features that people weren’t really using on the earpiece.
“There was too much going on, people just wanted a translation device,” May says.
Lingmo kept Google Maps — it is essentially a travel accessory — and Bluetooth capability if people don’t want to connect to Lingmo’s prepaid SIM network. Google Play is available for downloads, but other app stores have been axed.
In return, the Time2Translate gets a four-hour constant use battery life (14 hours standby) and extra memory.
And most importantly, it’s on your wrist.
As if speaking into a watch like you have in all your spy film dreams isn’t impressive enough, Lingmo is also launching new software along with the Time2Translate which enables real-time messaging in nine languages.
So you can send a voice message in English on your watch and the recipient will receive it in Chinese. But what is truly extrordinary is the watch will enable up to 1,000 users to converse in a group chat across all nine languages.
Those languages represent 90% of the world’s spoken words.
May said Lingmo burned through five protoypes to find speakers for the side of the watch that met the standard required for speaking English into, and hearing Arabic out of up to two metres away.
And because Lingmo is working with Watson every second to improve its service, the translation is far beyond the typical clunky word-for-word systems you might be used to online.
But for a premium service, expect to pay a premium price – the watch starts from $US699 for the Lifestyle model. Here’s the complete spec rundown:
- 4GB ROM and 512 RAM
- Tri-Band capability
- 1.39″ AMOLED touch screen
- 350mAh Battery
- 4-5 hours battery life (constant use)
- 13-15 hours battery life (standby)
- Nano SIM
- Android OS
“We just wanted to turn those (earpiece) negatives into positives,” May says about developing the smartwatch. “Interest has been really positive around the world, and we’re now dealing with some proof of concepts with major airlines and US multinationals.
“We’re slowly getting there; it’s just about doing it right and being a startup it’s just about focusing on the little things and getting them right first.”
Since the October rollout of One2One, Lingmo International has moved into new office on the NSW central coast and grown its staff from three to more than 20. It also now has offices in the Middle East and China, and a virtual office in Silicon Valley which it is looking to make permanent.
May says it’s been a challenging time in his life, but he doesn’t miss sticking his hand down the toilet.
“It’s what you start a company for. You have your hard times but you just have to keep pushing on and that’s what it’s all about with the watch.
“You just have to keep innovating.”
His ultimate goal is to see Lingmo’s product line include the “holy grail”, where anyone can pick up a phone and make a call which instantly translates to the other end and back again.
“We’re making slow inroads,” he says. “The software on the watch is a significant step towards that.”