Panasonic has announced a new device which promises to make life easier for airport staff around the world.
The Japanese company calls the megaphone “Megahonyaku,” a combination of “megaphone” and “translation” in Japanese. As the operative speaks into the device, it automatically transmits the words in three languages: English, Chinese or Korean, writes Bryan Lufkin for Gizmodo.
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Narita Airport staff to trial Panasonic translating megaphones
Product trials will be conducted at Tokyo Narita International Airport, which is one of the busiest in Japan. If the product proves successful Panasonic could add more languages and extend the benefits to airport staff around the world.
Although it could help with travel announcements, perhaps a more important use for the Megahonyaku is in disaster situations. Last year heavy blizzards caused delays at Narita airport and staff could not efficiently communicate with tourists regarding emergency sleeping bags and water.
Panasonic has not revealed the exact capabilities of the device but Narita staff will find out during the testing period. According to Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun its translation powers are similar to a smartphone app.
Japanese airports at the forefront of new travel technology
The Megahonyaku is one form of new technology being developed at Japanese airports. Robots recently joined the staff at Tokyo’s other main airport, Haneda International, helping passengers carry bags and providing information.
Panasonic previously announced plans to provide handheld translation devices to consumers, part of an initiative to prepare the Japanese capital for a wave of tourists who are expected to attend the 2020 summer Olympics. Japanese people generally do not speak a particularly high level of English, and the Japanese language is one of the hardest for foreigners to learn to any degree of conversational fluency.
Using instant translation technology from companies like Panasonic will allow visitors to have a more enjoyable experience at the Tokyo Olympics, and it is also part of Japanese efforts to exhibit their development of cutting edge technology. Alongside instant translators and robot assistants, there will also be a fleet of self-driving taxis that ferry visitors around town.
Japan is hoping that it can catch up in the race to develop the first self-driving car, with companies like Toyota currently lagging behind rivals such as Tesla and Google. Tokyo 2020 looks set to be an amazingly futuristic event.