OSAKA – Panasonic Corp. said Thursday it will start offering in December a megaphone capable of automatically translating Japanese into English, Chinese and Korean in its latest bid to help companies cope with an increase in foreign visitors to Japan.
Panasonic hopes the new translation service can be used in places such as stations, airports and tourist destinations where accurate and speedy announcements are needed. It is targeting corporate customers with a goal of obtaining contracts for 10,000 units in fiscal 2018.
The megaphone has around 300 preset sentences in Japanese that are commonly used to raise caution and give information, including “The train has been delayed” or “Watch your step.”
When a user speaks into the megaphone, it recognizes and translates what is being said instantly, which will then be played out in English, Chinese and Korean through its speaker.
Panasonic said the device is easy to use in times of emergency and its voice recognition can function regardless of background noise. Users can add new phrases and get software updates by connecting to the internet.
The device can “almost certainly” recognize preset sentences even if they are not read word for word, a Panasonic official said.
Panasonic will start offering the megaphone-based translation service on Dec. 20 for less than ¥20,000 ($183) a month on a three-year contract, providing users with future updates and maintenance. It does not plan to sell the device alone.
The Osaka-based company may consider adding other languages such as Russian depending on need.
Since 2015, around 30 organizations, including police and train operators, have started using the megaphone translation service on a trial basis.